You have seen the articles about the questions you need to be ready to answer, the questions to ask, when to interview to be selected, and what to wear. But, if you are like most people, you are still worried about interviewing well.

Get past your fears and nerves by thinking about an interview at its best. Then, it is a conversation between two or more people about a possible shared future. Each side has something the other might value, and each has to decide if it is a good match.

Getting Started for Successful Interviews

Start by practicing interviews with friends or mentors. Try some informational interviews in your desired career field — there are many similarities with real interviews but generally lower stakes. Then begin attending job fairs and practicing short interviews with employers there.

Doing mock interviews via a job search group, a job club, or with experienced friends is another smart practice.

What Do You Control?

You certainly don’t control the whole interview process, but you do control key elements. Focus on them to increase your probability of success

1. Your preparation

Review what you know about the job, the organization, and what your research shows about the workplace and culture. Update your research.

Ask who you will interview with and what role each person plays and then check them out online. This helps your comfort level and can give you insight into any common points with the person or mutual acquaintances.

2. Your focus

You want to be there fully in mind and spirit. If you are really engaged you will perform far better and make it easier for your brain to work well.

Listening fully before answering questions is a rare skill. Many of us are too busy starting to prepare our answer before the speaker has finished talking. That leads to poor answers. You miss effectively connecting with each interviewer. Your brain forgets the success story details that flesh out why you would be a great hire. You may blab too much or clam up – neither is helpful. You omit questions that are important to your assessment of the actual opportunity.

Think of the interview as an interesting conversation and focus on paying attention throughout.

3. Your presentation

People hire people they like. Of course they want qualifications but most research shows that it is the initial minute or two that makes the connection or not.

How do you deal with that?

  • Give yourself time to get there, and wear appropriate clothes to reduce extra stress.
  • Be positive. Know what you want as well as what you offer.
  • Remember your manners.
  • Demonstrate by your behavior and words that you are interested, excited, and pleased to be there.

Go in ready to show how you solve problems, deal with others, and grow your own skills — using specific terms and examples.  Talking about past successes in ways that are relevant to the work you seek gives you confidence that subtly speaks to the interviewer about what a top quality candidate you are.

4. Your reactions

Interviews are stressful to both sides. The interviewer needs to make a smart hire in a cost-effective manner. You want the job but need to assess if it really matches your goals.

Do not let small matters upset or overwhelm you. I have seen too many candidates who let one minor thing get to them and ruin the rest of the time.

Sometimes hiring managers make mistakes or are running late. This is not the time to berate the receptionist or the interviewer. Bring a book or, better yet, an industry publication – electronic or print; you look prepared and interested and will get less antsy.

Be friendly and interested in talking with each person. Be prepared to add more detail to your answers if asked, don’t take offense or wonder why they don’t understand.

If a question makes you uncomfortable, ask calmly what the business issue is that they are trying to discuss.

Don’t assume there is some discriminatory intent unless there is a strong pattern.

Bottom Line

Interviews are an important part of most hiring. A realistic attitude, basic manners, and an interest in other people go a long way. These plus solid preparation help ensure you present your best self and get the information you need to make a good decision.