The Job Hunt

How to Prepare For and Stand Out in an Interview When You Don’t Feel Qualified

Morgan Von Gunten
February 2020

It was late in the evening, and I was checking my email. For the past several weeks, I’d been creating projects and pitches for startups because I was ready to get a job, and I knew I had to do something better to stand out. I hadn’t heard from anyone yet, though.

But that evening, I got an email.

The email.

The founders of a startup wanted to interview me.

I was incredibly excited.

I was incredibly nervous.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

This was my first interview in months. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was pretty sure I would fumble over my words, talk too much about myself, and look like an idiot. I didn’t feel qualified.

That night, a mentor advised me to spend some time on the company’s website, find something I liked about it, and remember to mention it in the interview the next day. He told me I should spend some time checking out the founders’ LinkedIn profiles, their company values, and the job description itself. “Then you should write down some genuine questions to ask in the interview,” he said.

He reminded me interviewers are just my peers. They’ve got a bigger job title, but they’re not above me, and I’m not above them.

The interview came. I did what he said.

And it actually went great.

I asked good questions, like “What’s made someone a rockstar in this position, and what’s made someone subpar?” I showed I was excited about the role by taking notes.

The interview became a conversation instead of something terrifying. And I left the interview ready to do more.

The best interviews are conversations

The best interviews are just conversations to see if the other person would be someone nice to work with. Often, you can learn on the job. So if you don’t know everything the job description says the job requires, don’t stress. Be prepared to be asked about it, be prepared to say, “I don’t know,” and then say, “But you’ve never met anyone hungrier to learn it than me.”

Be honest. Go all in. If you’re nervous, turn that nervous energy into excited energy by telling yourself you’re excited. Lean forward. Ask questions that create real conversation. If you’re genuinely interested in something about the company, even if you have to dig a lot to find something, you’ll be able to show a level of interest most people don’t have. That makes you instantly stand out. (And that digging will give you extra knowledge about the people you’re about to talk to, which creates even more conversational questions).

If you’re going into an interview, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Preparation isn’t fake—it creates obvious interest. And like Isaac Morehouse says,

Companies are people, too. When they hear people talking about them, that opens up a lot of opportunity.

Do your research on the company. Check out their website, their social media. Read several of their blog posts and mention something you liked about one in the interview. Be ready to tell your story, to talk about your future career goals, to answer questions about why you’re interested in the company with answers that are genuine. You can even go above and beyond after the interview and send them a follow-up email within minutes.

Do that, and you’ll blow them away (and win more interviews). Because everything extra stands out.


This article originally appeared on Quora here.

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