Standing out in a talented pool

Say you got the interview and it went well, now how do you recommend being the one candidate that gets hired in a talented pool? I’ve already had my first interview now I’m trying to prepare for a second one.

If you’ve hooked them for a second interview they at least think your work shows potential, so I would suggest looking to make a personal connection of some sort—both to make you more memorable and to demonstrate your fit with that particular company. And if it’s a job you really want, show it to them.

As a couple examples from jobs I ended up landing:
For one job I knew I would be interviewing with engineers, so I spent a couple days making some more complex, drafted Solidworks models at home and then printed out exploded views and 2D drawings to show I was capable and comfortable working in that space. They really latched onto those because it showed how I could fit into their world and that I had gone the extra mile to sell to them specifically.

For another job, I shelled out my own money and booked a flight so I could do an out of state interview in person rather than taking interview #2 as a phone call (obviously more difficult in covid times though…). They said that tipped me over the edge because it showed I was seriously interested in that job/company specifically—I wanted to be there. I stood out against the other people who just called in like they originally suggested.

Also, if you have some sort of interesting hobby or skill that makes you more of an individual, sharing that can make you more memorable as a human rather than just another portfolio. Maybe one of your interviewers shares that interest and you can have a more engaging/fun conversation. Maybe showing some personality lets the other employees see how you would fit in their team. You can be the “snowboard guy/girl,” or the “cello player,” or the “person who makes butter sculptures” instead of the “one with the car sketches in their portfolio.” I have a couple bikes on the wall in my impromptu remote office and almost every web call I’m on somebody wants to chat about it for ten minutes after the work part of the call. Obviously you have to be able to perform the job you’re applying for, but simple personal connections can also go a long ways in my opinion.