How to Stand Out From Other Interview Candidates: Advice for CS Grads


Many CS grads are eager to kickstart their tech career. However, the end of 2022 saw the tech industry lay off over 97,000 IT professionals, a 649% increase in job cuts. That means there’s a lot of tech talent in the market right now. With the number of available tech workers significantly up, the competition for positions at tech companies is undeniably fierce.

These companies receive thousands of applications every week; only hundreds are considered for an interview, and only a handful gets the job. As in any other sector, the only way an applicant can capture an employer’s attention is by standing out from the crowd.

If you’ve scored an interview, that is already a great achievement. Good job! However, now you’re here, how can you maximize your chance of success?

Here are a few proven expert tips on how to stand out from other interview candidates.

Do your research

Conducting your research makes you more capable of thoroughly articulating why you are a good fit for the company. 

How to stand out from other interview candidates and get the attention of tech companies hiring? Doing your research is at the top of the list.

Researching the company allows you to dive deep into its culture, history, and values. It gives you organizational insight and allows you to determine if their work values and goals align with yours. Working at a company that aligns with your goals can translate to your work satisfaction: 72% of employees who work at organizations they love feel accomplished.

Similarly, conducting your research makes you more capable of thoroughly articulating why you are a good fit for the company. In the employer’s eyes, doing this will show that you’re not just applying to every tech company out there but that you’re highly interested in their company and have taken the time to know about what they do. This exhibits your dedication to landing the position. Providing answers based on research inspires confidence about your motivations and goals.

Showcase your tech skills

IT certifications provide your resume with a much-needed boost that can put you ahead of the competition.

For tech companies, skills matter. Over 58% of international tech recruiters say web development is their top priority. 37% are prioritizing DevOps, 30% AI and ML, 27% database software, and 26% cloud computing.

Another great piece of advice on how to stand out from other interview candidates is to highlight any relevant skills or experience on your resume. For example, if you have any coding skills and/or experience, feature these prominently. Further impress your interviewer by adding in non-job experiences that are significant to the position. These can be hobbies, personal projects, and freelance work.

IT certifications also provide your resume with that much-needed boost to get you ahead of the competition. Certifications and digital badges show that you have a particular tech skill and make you a strong candidate for a related role. Among the most sought-after IT certifications that capture the attention of tech hiring recruiters are:

  • Oracle Certified Associate Java Programmer OCAJP
  • Certified Associate in Python Programming (PCAP)
  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate (DVA-C01)
  • AWS Application Development
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Developer Prep
  • CIW Web Development

If you can equip yourself with any of these, you will put yourself in a strong position.

Network, network, network!

80% of professionals say networking is vital to their career advancement and success.

It can help to understand how to stand out from other interview candidates by leveraging your network. 

Maintaining a network of verifiable references adds to your credibility. Providing evidence of professional relationships with tech professionals increases your appeal to employers. The numbers reflect this:

  • 80% of professionals say networking is vital to their career advancement and success.
  • Nearly 100% believe meeting and interacting with decision-makers and influencers builds stronger long-term relationships.

How can you get the references and connections that could boost your chances in an interview? 

Connect with people in the tech industry through online platforms such as LinkedIn. Attend meetups and events in your area. Get to know the personalities and listen to people’s stories. Put yourself out there!

Control the conversation

Exhibit that not only do you have the knowledge, but you also know how to apply your knowledge in work scenarios.

A technical interview is a rigorous and specialized process but you can own it by discussing your opinions, personal interests, and strengths – and portraying how these can add value to your potential employer.

If you have knowledge of their tech stack, make sure to center the conversation there. By using examples and evidence in your responses, you exhibit that not only do you have the knowledge, but you also know how to apply this know-how in work scenarios. This will indicate that you’re an excellent candidate for the job and will help progress the interview in the right direction. 

If you have little experience or know-how to share on a particular topic, don’t respond with wild guesses. Your interviewers will know. Instead, steer the discussion to your strengths and illustrate how these can add value to the organization.

You can also admit outright that you’re not well-versed in a particular field – but don’t stop there. Instead, use the opportunity to highlight that you’re a fast learner and can quickly pick up new skills. Reinforce this by citing situations where you need to learn new skills to perform certain tasks.

Remember that you’re in a room with like-minded individuals, so it’s natural they’ll be interested in discussing topics they find relevant. This keeps the momentum of the tech hiring interview on your side and makes you stand out more to your interviewers.

Bonus Tip: Stand Out with Smoothstack

Standing out from the competition is crucial to getting recruiters’ attention and, ultimately, their approval. But if you’re tired of trying to get interviews or not getting callbacks after interviews – good news! There’s another way.

Smoothstack provides fresh CS graduates with the opportunity to break into the tech industry and jumpstart long and productive careers. Smoothstack’s intensive Hire-Train-Deploy program caters to fresh graduates with raw coding skills and transforms them into knowledgeable tech employee candidates within a 12 to 14-week window.

By the end of the Smoothstack training program, graduates gain 2-3 years of equivalency in the client’s tech stack, making them job-ready and productive from Day 1.

Through the Smoothstack program, our candidates meet and interact with industry leaders and professionals, which will help them further grow their network and increase job opportunities. Our client base comprises the world’s biggest tech organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies.

Let’s Build Your Team

Connect with the Smoothstack team to learn how to close your digital skills gap with a custom-trained team.