Originally published on Fast Company.
Employers don’t just want candidates who check every box. They want to see that you’re employable.
Now more than ever, finding people with the right work ethic has become far more critical than finding people with the right job skills. Sure, there’ll be times when companies need someone to fix a specific problem; in those instances, they will probably prefer candidates with hard skills.
But in almost all other cases, businesses generally look for talent with promise or potential. They want to hire candidates willing to put in the effort, learn the job, and adapt to today’s ever-changing workplace.
Think about almost any job these days. Most companies have established processes to streamline work. Except for the odd project, companies have spent a great deal of time and money to ensure that duties and responsibilities are not only repeatable but also scalable. Once they employ someone and train them in the job, it all comes down to work ethic and their drive to bring new ideas and initiatives.
So, how exactly do you, as a job candidate, ensure that potential employers can see the traits they’re looking for? A good résumé can undoubtedly help, as an average of 118 people apply for a single job–and only 22% will secure an interview, according to job website Zippia. From there, it’s about making a good impression during the interview. Here are three things you can do to do just that.
1. GIVE SPECIFIC ANSWERS AND EXAMPLES TO BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS
Behavioral interview questions are quickly becoming the norm. Even Google has been moving away from its traditional brainteaser questions to those in the behavioral category, as it gives the company a better sense of how candidates will approach given situations in the workplace. Behavioral questions tend to be customized to specific job functions, and interviewers often use it as a way to dive deeper into your adaptability, ingenuity, and ability to solve problems.
Listen carefully to the question and understand that the interviewer wants to hear about past behavior. Not offering an example is a missed opportunity to demonstrate your skills and abilities. If you need to pause to gather your thoughts, do so. Repeat the question back if you need clarification.
If, for example, the interviewer asks you to talk about a time you developed a new skill, start by potentially positioning it as a problem. Perhaps you had difficulty wrapping your head around writing marketing emails. Because you knew it was a valuable skill, you spent time studying the practice, reviewing different styles, and experimenting with the process. Your hard work eventually paid off, and now you feel comfortable and confident in your ability. Finish off the example by sharing the response rates associated with your efforts.
2. DEMONSTRATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND ENTHUSIASM FOR THE COMPANY
It’s surprising how many people still arrive for an interview without reviewing the company website: 47% of candidates get cut from the interview process because they fail to familiarize themselves with the business they’re interviewing for, according to the legal recruitment platform LegalJobs. Do the necessary legwork and get to know the company’s history, customer base, mission, vision, and other aspects of the business.
Understanding what the company does provides a foundation for asking relevant questions during the interview, which showcases your genuine interest in the job and helps you determine if the company is the right place for you. Why do you want the job? What makes the company and its culture a good fit? What about the company’s goals and values align with your career goals and aspirations?
Familiarizing yourself with the company can also give you a better idea of the behavioral questions that the hiring manager might ask during your interview. You can then think through what you might do in specific scenarios, such as dealing with difficult clients or unexpected changes to projects.
3. PREPARE TO ASK SOME SMART QUESTIONS
Obviously, you’ll ask questions about the role during the interview. But if you want to convey your trainability or flexibility–without simply saying as much–think beyond the standard inquiries. Interviewers can learn a lot about you based on your questions, and posing “hows” and “whys” often shows a desire to learn.
You can also display your curiosity by asking questions about the people interviewing you. If you can find out who will conduct the interview, check the person’s LinkedIn profile to get a read on their background. While you don’t want to come off like a stalker, you want to understand someone’s background so you can ask informed questions about what drew them to the company. Getting people to talk about themselves can do wonders for increasing their engagement with you.
With any job, there will always be non-negotiable core competencies. But when companies have a choice between two candidates, employers don’t always go with the person who merely checks each skill box. They want employability skills such as trainability, agility, and innovation.
That’s why it’s essential to highlight them on your application and find ways to convey them articulately during the interview process. Put your best foot forward from start to finish, and you’ll be one step closer to landing the job you want.
Scott Schoeneberger is the managing partner at Bluewater, a design-forward technology company that helps support sensory storytelling across digital and physical canvases.