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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.