I knew something had happened when my attitude flipped from aloof and noncommittal to anxiously hopeful -- ready and willing to say anything to make us (that is, my team) seem more attractive to the job candidate we'd just interviewed. We had talked to 6 people. All were prequalified by the recruiters and met our hiring criteria. However, one stood out from the pack. She wasn't overqualified for the job, but brought a perspective on our client and a number of financial and marketing skills that we hadn't even dreamed of asking for. We offered her the job and she accepted. More than 10 years later, she's risen to a senior manager and has brought a tremendous value to the organization.

Whether we're hiring a permanent employee or a contracted freelancer, employers face a number of problems when hiring. Those problems can be summed up as the fear of a messy and expensive mistake. What we often forget when we're looking for a job is that the employer is nervous too. They're in the process of making a pretty big financial and organizational commitment with a limited set of information. It's risky.

To mitigate the risk, smart employers try to get as much information as they can in advance. This includes trying to get a sense of how each candidate would fit in with the team and benefit the business.

As a job candidate, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. You can help reduce your prospective employer's anxiety and increase their certainty while making yourself the one and only person for the job. Here's how:

  1. Check the right boxes. Just getting in the door requires technical competence. To be considered, you must demonstrate that you meet the minimum requirements for the job. But that vetting typically happens before the interview is even scheduled. Your resume and LinkedIn profile should clearly map to the job skills requested.
  2. Have an industry perspective -- or a technical one. Know the unique angle you're selling before you arrive at the interview. If you're coming from another place in the same industry, bring a bigger picture perspective on challenges and opportunities, changes in technology, or in-demand skills in the future. Thomas Koulopoulos shared the 5 biggest trends for 2016 that are still highly relevant and worth knowing and weaving into your interview, as appropriate. For another example, if you're leaving one large consulting firm for another, have an informed opinion on the trends you've seen among corporate clients. What type of new services are they looking for? Is the trend to pay more or less for specific services?
  3. Offer 1 or 2 additional skills. Your base level technical skills are likely what got you the interview in the first place. If you can steer the interview, try to focus on how 1 or 2 additional skills that you have can complement and enhance the basic requirements. If you're a strong writer applying for a position as a developer, you may not have highlighted those skills on your resume but know that the product manager would be very interested. According to "Eight Career Skills You Need To Be Competitive In 2016" in FastCompany, building diverse teams and cultural competence are also highly attractive to employers. In response to their interviewer's questions, weave in examples of how you'd incorporate those skills into your work there.
  4. Bring your enthusiasm. Get excited about the possibilities and let that shine through during your time with each person you meet at the company. Even if you end up opting out of an offer that comes later because it's not the right fit, you can be excited in the moment. You never want the people in a post-interview panel discussion to be left wondering whether you were actually interested in them.


Being able to differentiate yourself in a job interview makes you not just the best candidate but the only candidate. In doing so, you solve two problems -- one for the employer and one for yourself. Because by making the hiring manager's job easier, you're more likely to get an offer. You've successfully demonstrated that you meet the criteria, have a unique perspective, offer additional skills, and would bring energy and enthusiasm to the job. By doing this for the employer, you also increase your chances of standing out and being selected- as the one and only for the job.

Published on: Aug 23, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.