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The sweaty palms, the nervous butterflies, the re-reading of your resume for the 1000th time, we all know interviews can be stressful. But they’re also an opportunity to show that you are more than a few impressive words on a piece of paper.

The basic questions are easy, it’s the harder questions that can keep you up at night. Zingers like where do you see yourself in 5 years, why do you want to work for this company, why did you choose this school, it’s these questions that make interviews a pain. But there’s actually a few ways to make sure you perform your best at your next interview.

A large part of any interview is just to see how you react to stress. The interviewer knows this is nerve wracking! They want to see if you’re confident, how you react to new situations and how quickly you can think on your feet. That’s the point of the random questions. And if you notice, they ask the harder ones at the end, after you’ve had a chance to relax. Here are some things to keep in mind before your next interview.

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This is about you.

First of all your resume should be strong. That goes beyond the scope of this article but every single word should fight to be on that piece of paper, every word should further your story. Make a list of your best qualities and be prepared to talk about them and how you’ve demonstrated them in your previous work.

But it’s also about them.

Do your due diligence! Research the company or university or group you want admittance to. Read their mission statement. Scour the application and job listing. Make a list of qualities they value and see how you can relate your experiences with what they’re looking for. Know the company and be prepared to answer a few questions about them. This especially helps with the famous “why do you want to work here” question. And being able to slip your knowledge of the company into the conversation will show your interviewer you are serious about them.

Wear something comfortable but appropriate.

As a recent college grad, I know wearing anything dressier than a hoodie can be a foreign experience. That being said, I am also a firm believer in dressing for success. Depending on the situation, business casual is the minimum for an interview. Try your outfit on a few days in advance, iron it, make sure it looks and smells impeccable. But most importantly, make sure it fits well and is comfortable. The last thing you want is to be constantly adjusting your outfit every time you sit or stand. You have more important things to focus on.

Practice being confident.

Practice walking confidently, shaking hands with confidence, displaying confident body language and using confident power words. Try this exercise, one of my favorites from Tony Robbins: ask yourself, how would you sit if you were totally confident? How would you hold your body? Would you slouch or hold your body uncomfortably ramrod straight? Probably not. Think of how you would feel if you were completely confident and self assured. Think of someone with this body language, it can be a friend, a movie star, anyone. Now sit that way.

Put in your mirror time.

Practice meeting, shaking hands and answering a few questions in front of the mirror. If possible, sit in front of a mirror and conduct a mock interview so you can see exactly how you’ll look. Practice your smile, practice giving eye contact and your body language. It may seem silly but the best orators in the world practice every smile, motion and gesture in front of a mirror and tweak it for maximum impact.

Answer these questions ahead of time.

When you answer questions, make sure they highlight your strengths and align to the goals of the company. Unless you’re applying to Google, Apple or Amazon, you won’t need to worry about unusual, crazy questions although it is still a possibility. But first, focus on having an incredible answer to these most commonly asked questions:

Why do you want to work for this company?

Tell me about yourself.

Why did you leave/are you leaving your last position?

Tell me about a time where you overcame a challenge.

Tell me about a time you assumed a leadership position.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

What would you specifically bring to the position?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

If you do get thrown a wild card question, just go for it and realize that if you’ve made a good impression thus far, the worst thing you could do is blow it by freezing, clamming up and stuttering that you don’t know. Relax and realize it’s meant to test your creative thinking, so be creative!

Have a question!

Do you have any questions for me is your last chance to make an impression. So here’s a tip: have a question! A well thought out genuine question relating to the position or the company itself puts you miles above the other applicants who just want to get out of there as fast as they can. It shows you’ve done your due diligence.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into acing an interview. But that’s the point. The average person simply won’t go through all the trouble and effort, which clears the way for anyone who will. According to an HR manager at a fortune 500 company, if a document says optional, less than 25% of applicants will submit it. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile. If the position doesn’t require a cover letter, send one anyway. Prove that you go above and beyond and you will have great success with interviews. Now go get it!

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Posted by Jeannette Dozier

Jeannette Dozier is an analytics expert, author and part time physicist. When she's not trying to disprove the laws of physics she's writing at www.thearmedartist.com a website dedicated to turning artists into entrepreneurs. She also co-founded Get It Productions with her brother Michael.

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