Many important components go into job hunting: We have to put together a succinct but impressive resume. We have to convey our qualifications and interest in a job through cover letters. But the job interview stress *might* be the hardest part about the process.
Interviews can be intimidating for a number of reasons. We often learn not to brag about ourselves, so when we have to talk up our work at an interview, we don’t always know what to say. Also, trying to find the perfect blend between professionalism and personality can be daunting. But stop your stressing! We’ve put together a list of strategies for the next time you’re sitting across from your potential new boss, unsure of what to say. Because nothing beats a great first impression.
1Make your goal likability, not perfection.
Recruiter Dandan Zhu explained that she often knows the best candidate for a position based only on their likability. That’s because we all want to work with people we get along with. And think about it – we know how to be likable, regardless of our job skills. So focus on things like smiling, listening, and keeping things as a conversation, not a monologue.
2Give them stories, not lists.
Don’t just recite the skill list from your resume when you’re in the interview. That can be both boring and unhelpful, because they’ve already seen that list. Instead, think of a quick story that explains each skill. Forbes recommends preparing about 20 stories in advance, so you have a huge amount to pull from. They recommend writing down the Situation, Obstacle, Actions you took, and Results to give a solid structure to each story.
3Try to keep your answers brief.
If you talk too much, employers might think you’re nervous or just a big talker. So keep your stories and answers brief.
4Do your research.
Just as your interviewer probably researched you before the interview, you need to research them. Check out their website, look at examples of their work, and see if you can even find their mission statement online. This research will help you better prepare for the interview and give you an idea of who you’re meeting with.
5Be prepared to go with the flow.
Especially since so many people (including us) tell you to be super prepared for your interview, surprises can really catch you off guard. But make sure to roll with them, because that might be part of the interview. Employers want to know that you can roll with the punches, so they may have planned surprises like another interview or even a skills test that you weren’t prepared for ahead of time.
6Dress for the job you want.
In our modern era of very specific office cultures, gone are the days where one perfect suit could get you through any interview. While you want to look your best, coming overdressed to a more casual workplace can make you feel just as out of place as coming underdressed. Try to look online to get a sense of the dress code at a company and dress for the nicest version of that. Because you’ll want to look and feel like you can fit in right away.
7Be friendly to everyone.
We’ve all been kept waiting in the lobby before an interview. And instead of sitting in silence, getting more and more nervous, try chatting with the receptionist. Information travels fast at most companies, and that great chat (where your awesome personality shone though) just might be the little extra something that gets you the job.
We know it’s a cliché and hard to put into practice, but you don’t want to go into the interview pretending to be someone you’re not. Try to connect with your interviewer about things you both care about. And don’t be afraid to have fun. Everyone wants to work with someone awesome, so show your interviewer why that person is you.
9Ask questions about the future.
The portion of the interview where you get asked if you have any questions can also be super stressful. But your questions can be just as valuable as your answers in terms of showing your interest and potential value to the company. Fortune suggests asking questions about your future at the company, not the nitty-gritty stuff like start dates. Ask how they would describe the culture, or about potential for growth. These types of questions show that you’re really interested in the job and your future there.
And remember — you got this!