Becoming an exceptional candidate is something you can do; it's just that most people don't take the trouble. In my experience, most interviews don't go that well; most people are bad at them. The truth is that many recruiters are actually not particularly good at interviewing either nor particularly effective. So, if you prepare properly and are a good interviewee, the odds can be stacked in your favor.
To put in a good performance think about planning, practice and positive psychology. An interview is an audition. You need to project yourself as the sort of the person the interviewer wants to hire; as someone they want on the team.
Just checking out a company website is not enough
It's not just a question of researching the organisation. You need to understand your interviewer and why they are hiring. One way or another they are seeking a resource as a solution to an identified problem. Just checking out their website, report and accounts is not enough.
Work on understanding the organisational need and how you can add value. Look at the challenges and opportunities they face and work out how to show that your experience and expertise are relevant. Explore their market, competitors and the changes taking place in the industry.
Use your network to find information about the interviewer and his preferences, the company and its culture. Use LinkedIn and Zoom Info to gather all the intelligence you can.
Focus more on delivery rather than giving off-the-cuff replies
Rehearse your presentation. I don't necessarily mean being word perfect. I'm talking about what you say when anyone asks you what you do, why you left, what you have achieved and so on. Can you talk about yourself comfortably, with confidence, concisely with clarity? Practice so that you have the right words, don't get flustered, talk at the right pace and, crucially, know when to stop. Remember the need for consistency between words and body language.
In an interview you have to know your CV by heart. None of it pops into your head at the last minute; you know what you are going to say and what spin you are going to put on it. A good interviewee has learned his or her lines in advance and is focusing much more on delivery than on off-the-cuff replies.
It's not a solo performance: aim for a 50/50 dialogue
What you really need to do, though, is to make the interview interactive. People trained in interview techniques are told to use the 70/30 rule. That is to say the interviewer aims to talk for about 30% of the time allotted and the candidate talks 70% of the time, in response.
The smart candidate actually wants a 50/50 dialogue. You should aim for a conversation, directed along the lines you prefer – whereby you can play to your strengths. The interviewer can only go with what you give them. This is best illustrated by using the "what was your biggest business mistake?" question. Do you really want to tell them your biggest mistake? Really? You decide.
You are aiming for positive interaction. Make it easy for the interviewer by saying "have I told you all you need to know on that subject? Can I give you more detail?" Build rapport, find some common ground. But remember it's not a monologue, you are both actors in the interview and it is a dialogue, a conversation, not a solo performance.
A positive outlook is crucial
Henry Ford famously said "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". You're motivated, you've done the prep and have the drive to succeed so visualize success.
Whether you call it confidence, self-esteem or self-belief, to shine at interview you need to show that you will make a good employee. Show that you are good at interacting and reading your situation, good at selling yourself and your ideas. Practicing your interview technique will make it so much easier to shine. There's no need to be nervous if you believe you are a good candidate for the role. If you believe you can do it, then you can do it. You know it because you have prepared, practiced and are ready to show what you can do.
Review and follow up
After the interview send a letter. Thank them for seeing you. Reiterate how interested you are in them and the role. Review the key points of the interview when you discussed challenges and opportunities and outline how you can help them meet those.