Don’t be a Clone at Your Job Interview!

Multiple images of the exact same job interview candidate.Have a job interview coming up soon? That’s great! However, take a moment and put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. When looking at all the candidates who applied for this job, what does the interviewer see? If the job posting and applicant tracking system worked, the interviewer may be looking at a collection of clones! What do I mean? Remember, the candidates who were selected for an interview all have:

  • The same required degree
  • Similar work experience
  • The same required license, certification, or other credentials

After all, these candidates—including you—had to meet the same basic job requirements or else they wouldn’t even be considered, right? Not just that, if they prepared themselves for the interview, they will all likely:

  • Be professionally dressed
  • Have professionally-prepared resumes and cover letters
  • Be polite and well-spoken

So, what makes you anything special?

This is Nothing New

At its core, this problem is something that marketing professionals have struggled with for years! Consider the following example. When you purchase facial tissue, do you spend time researching all the products available and then stress out over the decision of which brand to get? Probably not. For most people, a tissue is a tissue is a tissue. You likely either just buy what you always have purchased or grab whichever one happens to be on sale this week. However, for the manufacturers of facial tissue, your behavior is a nightmare! They MUST find a way to convince you that out of all the tissue choices available, their brand is the one you want!

To do this, they spend millions of dollars on advertising, product design, and physical appearance. They try to persuade you their tissue is softer and thus gentler on the nose. It is more absorbent, stronger, and comes in attractive colors. Maybe it also contains aloe, is packaged in a prettier box, is a convenient size, etc., and therefore the one you should purchase. They look for and tout anything that favorably separates their product from that of the competition.


In the field of marketing, convincing the customer that a product or service is different enough from the competitors’ offerings so as to clearly be the best choice is known as differentiation. This concept applies to you as well! In the context of our discussion, you are the “product” being sold, the “customer” is the interviewer, and the “competitors” are all the other job candidates.

Without some way to differentiate the job candidates, an employer might just as well save some time and simply pick a name at random. OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But, by design, the job posting is supposed to bring in applicants who all meet certain requirements and are equally qualified, right? So, just like the tissue makers, you need to find a way to favorably set yourself apart from the competition. How can you adapt and use this marketing concept to your advantage?

Differentiate Yourself!

How do you stand out from your competition? As every line of work is different, look closely for attributes that are valued in your own career field. Identify these valued attributes, and if you have them, promote them. Here are a few general ideas to get you started:

  • Is your education or degree beyond the bare minimum required?
  • Do you have specialized or advanced training beyond the minimum required?
  • Do you possess valuable skill sets, software proficiency, or specific knowledge other candidates might not?
  • Is your work experience more extensive than what the typical candidate might have?
  • Do you have an applicable and preferred license, certification, or other credentials beyond whatever is minimally required?
  • Have you attended professional conferences or seminars which other candidates may have not?
  • Are you a member of one or more professional organizations recognized in your field?
  • How’s your GPA? If it’s impressive, this may be helpful, especially if you’re a recent graduate without a lot of work experience.
  • If you are currently employed, have you volunteered for special projects or served on committees? If so, be sure to talk about it. Unlike you, many employees turn and run when management asks for volunteers!
  • Many companies value having their employees involved in charity work and community projects. Have you volunteered for any community causes (e.g., soup kitchen, recycling, charity fundraising, etc.)? If so, this may be something you could work into your discussions.

Uh-oh. What if you realize there is very little that differentiates you from the other typical candidate? The final differentiator is, of course, how well you perform on the job interview itself.

Make sure to practice and hone your job interview skills. Practice answering expected interview questions out loud, over and over. Doing so will help the words come easier when you are nervous and in front of the interviewers. In the end, even if you are identical in most ways to the other candidates, your preparation may at least help you make the best impression. Start now to look for ways to set yourself apart from the crowd! Help the interviewers see that from among all the other candidates, you are the clear and obvious best choice.

Put marketing differentiation to work for you!

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share your experience and thoughts!

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2 Responses to Don’t be a Clone at Your Job Interview!

  1. This is a great topic, and very good advice. It can even be generally applied when you think about an organization, religious or secular, that may be trying to attract people.

    They, too, may need to ask themselves why would someone want to be a part of their group. A different application, but definitely universal advice.

    Very good! Thank you.

    • Career Lantern says:

      An interesting albeit different perspective on this subject. It is true that organizations as well must find a way to differentiate themselves from other similar organizations in order to successfully compete for new members.

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