The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What are three tips for nailing a job interview?” is written by Jared Fliesler, general partner at Matrix Partner.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates at a variety of companies — ranging from small startups to well-known companies like Google — and across nearly every job function. Even the best candidates stumble; only very few people are natural interviewers. For most of us, interviewing is terrifying. You have to highlight your strengths (and recognize your weaknesses); massage your past into a narrative for future success; and develop a connection with various interviewers — all while trying to decide if you would enjoy the company (and role). Interviewing is all about selling yourself and success relies on punching through the noise of your competition and connecting with your audience. Here are my top three tips:
Know your interviewers
Interviews are between people, not companies. And while people hire based on skills and knowledge, they also hire individuals with who they feel a connection. To help make this connection, know who you will be interviewing with and understand their journey: where did they go to school, what companies have they worked with, what path did they take, etc. Find your connection points and bring them up naturally in the conversation. But, don’t overdo this – it can come across as creepy, “I was stalking you on Facebook and saw you love the movie Ocean’s Eleven . . . me too!”
Practice your answers
This may sound like common sense, but know the key points you want to communicate. Before you interview, think about what they might ask you. You can’t predict the exact questions, but there are basics that all companies will want to know: what you’ve done in the past, what you hope to do in the future, and how you will add value at the company.
So practice. Answer concisely. Don’t be afraid of silence. Think about your answers and provide crisp responses. It shows you’re thoughtful, a clear thinker, and can prioritize. It’s also important to ask clarifying questions if there are multiple ways to interpret a question or if you’re unsure — it shows you’re listening and engaged. Nothing is worse than going on and on about something entirely irrelevant.
Follow your passion
Only interview for positions that you’re truly passionate about – you’ll do your best work at these companies. You can show your passion in the questions you ask and the examples you provide. Everyone loves to work with passionate people. At some point, the person interviewing you was sitting in your chair. Employees want to work alongside people that energize them and share their love for what they do. It’s the hardest thing to fake and the easiest way to stand out.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What are three tips for nailing a job interview?
The one quality that you won’t find on a resume by Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.
How much do references matter in a job interview? by Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam.
When is the best time to schedule a job interview? by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.
Why it’s okay to get personal in a job interview by Eva Gordon, vice president of training and development at The Container Store.
How social media can actually help you get hired by Andres Traslavina, senior global recruiter at Whole Foods Market.
3 key questions to ask yourself before a job interview by Charles Galda, CIO of technology centers and services at GE Capital.
Hiring 101: How to ace a job interview by Mike Del Ponte, co-founder of Soma.
College graduates: How to land your first job by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
Why you should treat a job interview like a first date by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
Why an impressive resume won’t get you hired by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.
Birchbox co-CEO: How to nail a job interview by Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox.
Watch more business news from Fortune: