The job market is tight these days, with fewer positions available and more demand than ever before. As a result, it takes much more for a candidate – even a qualified one – to rise above the masses and secure a desired position. While your impressive educational or employment background may have once been sufficient to get the job, there is a good chance that many other applicants are just as qualified. To differentiate yourself, you are best served to focus on your intangibles and on perfecting every element of the process.

One of the most important of these elements is the job interview. Always a crucial weed-out step for employers, the interview now carries an even added significance in a dismal job market. Even if your qualifications are superb, and your resume and recommendations are impeccable, you may easily find yourself back on the unemployment line if your interview fails to impress. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the fundamental tips to help make your interview more successful:

Expect the Unexpected

Most people go into an interview with answers to some basic and obvious questions in mind. They are prepared to explain their greatest strengths and weaknesses, their reasons for wanting the job, and an example of a time they showed leadership. Equally important, though, is being prepared for those questions that wouldn’t fall on a standard interview prep list. To identify these questions, consider the fact that any freely-available information about yourself qualifies as fair game. Any and all questions related to your past work experiences and career goals are possibilities here. The same thing can be said of information about you that appears on Facebook or in a Google search. While companies that repair online reputations may not be of much assistance, being ready to address such issues certainly will help.

Give Off the Right Body Language

You interviewer, whether consciously or unconsciously, will undoubtedly pay attention to your body language. When you prepare for the interview, then, make sure to keep the small things in mind. Don’t fidget. Don’t recline in your seat or sit up too straight. Don’t cross your arms. When it comes to eye contact, you certainly want to look directly at your interviewer much of the time, but you don’t want this to turn into an uncomfortable stare. A good approach is usually to look above or beyond your interviewers head during those times when you don’t make eye contact. Finally, dressing appropriately can help make your body language seem more professional and refined.

Be Personable

In the likely case that your interviewer has already looked at your resume and considered your qualifications, they probably have a pretty good grasp on your capabilities as a worker. The interview is therefore more important for its ability to showcase you as a person. Your chances of getting a job offer are much higher, ultimately, if the interviewer genuinely likes you and believes they would enjoy working with you. With this in mind, make a point of not just answering questions and conveying information, but also of highlighting your strengths as a person. Even if you aren’t good natured, relatable, or laid back, try to convey these qualities in your speech and your mannerisms. Increase your “likeability factor” during an interview.

Technical Expertise

You’ll probably go through a couple of rounds of interviews before you eventually land the final round. Technical expertise amounts equally to your polished soft skills. What would you do to ensure that you prepare well what would be asked at the interview?

  • Review the job description thoroughly – what are the requirements, what is the job description? What skills are most required or desirable? List them. Now prepare well for questions around these areas.
  • Go over your resume at least twice before any interview. Very well, you’re the one who wrote it but now’s the time to review which areas have you highlighted as your expertise. You’d better be good at those relevant questions – faltering at these would diminish your credibility in the interviewer’s eyes.
  • Which tools, software applications, and systems have you worked with? Identify which ones fall under your expertise. Which of these are you really an expert? Make sure you are confident to answer these questions well.

There is much about the job application process that lies outside of our control. We can’t determine, for example, how many applicants a position will get or how the employer goes about making a selection. But we do have control over our contribution to the process, which includes not just handing in an impressive resume but also being prepared at every stage – including coming to the interview prepared to excel.