How to stand out in a job interview

Research the company, understand the role you are applying for, arrive on time and dress appropriately to make a good first impression

If you attend a first interview and know little or nothing about the company, it will not leave a good impression. Getty
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The UAE continues to offer many employment opportunities, with several established companies looking to grow and a number of international companies entering the market.

But with many other candidates to compete with, some of who may have been recently made redundant and available immediately, how can you stand out and put yourself in the best position for a job offer?

The first thing to do when you are asked to interview for a role is obvious to most people, but it is an area where I have seen many candidates fall at the first hurdle.

Researching the organisation (as well as the job description) is a very important step. What does the company do, what is their mission statement, how many employees do they have?

You can find answers to these basic questions on their website, but some simple research on the internet will bring up some more detailed information that will help you ask questions later.

Finding out more about the ownership structure, company growth and competition will help you prepare for an interview and showing that you have done your homework will reflect positively on you.

If you attend a first interview with a hiring manager and know little or nothing about the company, it will not leave a good impression.

Before the interview takes place, it is also a good idea to fully understand the role you are applying for.

If you do not have a full job description or the one you have seems generic (which is quite common), it is perfectly acceptable to ask the person who has arranged the interview for more information.

Questions such as “is there any other information not on the job description that I need to know” or “is there anything I need to do to prepare beforehand” are perfectly reasonable and acceptable.

Arriving on time for the interview is another obvious, but sometimes overlooked, part of the process. Blaming bad traffic is not a good reason to arrive late.

Be prepared by knowing where to park and giving yourself a spare 15 to 20 minutes — arriving early is better than rushing and/or being late.

If being late is unavoidable, call or email ahead of time to let the person know. They may also be running behind schedule.

If the interview is online, make sure that your camera and mic are working — and you are in a quiet place where you can concentrate and not be disturbed.

When you are introduced at the interview, first impressions are very important. A positive, friendly demeanour and eye contact will be a good starting point.

Dressing appropriately is a must. Wearing smart business attire such as trousers and a shirt should be fine. Suits and ties (for men) are less popular than they used to be but it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Prepare a couple of questions to ask the person you are meeting and take notes. Not only will this help you understand the role, but it will also make it clear that you have a genuine interest to work them.

“What do you need from a person to be successful in this role?” or “How do you see this role developing in the next one to three years?” are good examples.

You should also try to find out more about the organisation, with questions such as, “What challenges are the business facing right now?”

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Be prepared to be asked questions that you may not have expected — and always answer honestly.

If you do not understand something, you should always say so and offer to investigate it further and get back to them.

You can expect questions on your strengths and weaknesses, or how you have overcome a challenge in the past, so have some answers prepared for these.

In closing the interview, it is a good idea to ask for feedback, without being pushy.

A good way to find out is to ask something like: “How do you see me fitting into this role?” or “Is there anything that you feel I am lacking to be successful in this position?”

Finally, it is always best practice to follow up with an email (ideally within 24 hours) to thank the person you met for the opportunity and offer to answer any questions they may have that have not been covered.

By following all these steps, you will give yourself the best possible chance of being hired. Good luck!

John Armstrong is founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: May 12, 2023, 5:00 AM