You’re seated across from an interviewer who is waiting to be impressed. He’s talked with a couple of dozen people over the past few days and is only looking to make an offer to three. What will make you stand out from the rest? Well, like it or not, it probably won’t be your academic record. Taking the right classes and doing well simply isn’t enough. Your resume is also a feature that can only serve to eliminate you if you haven’t constructed it well. So what factors will make you stand out from the rest of the candidates?

One vitally important skill that will set you apart and help you land that job is your ability to master crucial conversations. Crucial conversations occur when the stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions run strong. And consider that every time you talk with a potential employer you’re in the middle of a crucial conversation. Your future is at stake, opinions vary (you’re just sure that you’ll do well for them; they’re less certain), and your emotions certainly run strong. Under these conditions, most people do not perform their best.

Why would recruiters pay so much attention to something as apparently capricious as your interpersonal skills—as demonstrated during the interview? Interpersonal skills are important because the workforce environment you’ll be in is comprised of small groups and teams.

Those who have difficulty speaking up will negatively impact their organization. According to research I conducted with my colleagues at VitalSmarts, for every crucial conversation an employee avoids having with a coworker, an average of $1,500 and an 8-hour workday is wasted. Companies can’t afford that. Individuals who fall apart under the pressure of an interview aren’t going to stand up to the tension-filled conversations offered up most days at work.

Following are five simple tips for how to master the job interview:

  1. Work on your mindset. Convince yourself that you want the job and you’d be honored to work for the company. You can always say no later.
  2. Know your audience. As much as the interview feels like it’s about you, it’s not. It’s about how well you’ll fit into the new culture. Don’t go in blind. Do your homework to know about the company and position you are interviewing for.
  3. As the interview unfolds, watch for nonverbal cues. What perks up the interviewer? Do more of that. What turns off the interviewer? Stop doing that.
  4. Practice holding crucial conversations with a friend. Practice both advocating and listening (that’s right, listening is as much a part of the interview as talking). Ask your friend to see if you speak confidently—without seeming pushy or brash. Ask clarifying questions when necessary.
  5. Ask for the job. You’d be surprised how many people aren’t offered a job because they didn’t have the moxie to ask for it.