Interview Preparation –“What makes you a more valuable candidate?”

I am often asked to prepare people for interviews. There are many sources of the basics which are important but let’s get down to some specifics as they relate to software related recruiting.

Spend time thinking about the position you are interviewing for and what unique skills you bring to the table to address the needs of the client company. This is where you have a chance to talk about what goes beyond your resume. Believe it or not, strong technical applicants can look remarkably similar on paper. It’s the person you are and the value you bring that makes you stand out.

The things you want to think about is what initiatives you have taken on your own to help your past employers become successful. Have you done any coding in on personal projects? Do you have concrete examples of your curiosity or your ability to teach yourself new areas of technology? Are you a person who helps a team move forward? Do you unite and or inspire your team members? Think of examples. Have you ever thought of finding a solution to a problem on your own, “going the extra mile” or do you only do what is assigned? Maybe you aren’t the type to go off and solve problems on your own – that’s OK. You don’t have to portray yourself as someone different from who you are but you do need to think about yourself and why you add value.

Personal projects count. Technology is moving so fast and we now have open source software available to us. If you are inclined to play with this – do so.   

Also, think about where you work today. Think of the problems or inefficiencies in your group. Don’t complain about them. Instead, put yourself in the position of your manager. How would you solve these challenges? This is true value above and beyond your software languages or platforms.

Often employers when faced with the choice between a person with skills but who is not a team player and a person with the positive attitude they will chose the positive attitude.

Understand the company, its goals, its competitors and what you think its challenges are. Ask about this in the interview and be prepared to ask meaningful questions that will help you stand out as someone who not only cares about the specifics of the particular position but more importantly about the firm and its collective interests.

In conclusion, think about your competition for this position. How might you differentiate yourself? Give some thought to this before you arrive to speak with people. In the years I’ve done recruiting I’ve seen many very qualified applicants lose their chance for an offer because they were not prepared to present their value to the firm.

Good luck with your interviews!