A job interview is like a date, with the exception that on a date your future potential salary isn‘t at stake (unless, that is, your date is incredibly rich and might be persuaded to give you a hefty monthly allowance if you play your cards right, or if – the gods forbid – your date is your boss.) In both cases you are angling for acceptance, or at least to come across in your best light. You want the other party to think you‘re smart, capable and worth investing in, whether that be financially or emotionally. You want to present the Best You, and be rewarded for all of your many talents with kisses or a seal-the-deal handshake, with a second date or a start date. Your whole future might hinge on this meeting – it could turn out to be the romantic or career game-changer you‘ve been waiting for. And you‘re nervous as hell.

Let‘s set aside the romance for now and focus on the job interview (ultimately it is more important than a dinner with that new hottie because if you have no job you‘re most likely not going to get a second chance with them anyway!) What can you do to make the whole thing more successful? You‘ve gotten a foot in the door by getting the interview in the first place. Now how are you going to make it work for you? Let‘s take a look at a few situations that can trip you up, and what you can do to make sure you keep your pace and come out a winner.

First off, prepping for an interview is of extreme importance. Yes, this means shining yourself up, being clean and neat in comfortable yet classy clothing (even if you are applying for a bartending job at a punk bar, be sure your clothes are freshly washed and wearable, honestly! You want to come across as having a sense of personal pride in any scenario) and trimming excess hair and nail-age.  But don’t take things so far in prepping this First Impression that you create a You that you just won’t be able to live up to. Feeling stiff or awkward in brand new clothes or with an extreme new haircut gives off a sense of insecurity that interviewers are keen at picking up on. Be yourself, just a SuperFresh version of yourself. Even quirky is acceptable if it’s neat and clean.

As for the company or group you’re interviewing with, be sure to know their history. Cognitive Group‘s suggestion is to cruise around on their web site looking for interesting tidbits of information so that if the situation arises naturally you can reference details that show you did your research. Be careful, though, not to abuse this – you could end up seeming obsessive or like a know-it-all. One good way to avoid this is to find things you are curious about, and use that info to ask informed questions of your interviewer. (Example, “I noticed on the website that the company moved here to Atlanta in 1973. Where was it located before that?”) Keep your questions simple and stay away from dragging out follow-up commentary or Q’s on the answers you get. This isn’t a coffee chit-chat, but a serious career conversation! It could help to brush up a bit on any competitors in the field, but be sure not to mix up your data: you don’t want to bust out that awesome compliment that you actually read on another company’s home page!

Finally, while you’re in the interview process, just remember that everyone in the room is human, though some may have more practice at this kind of situation than others! If you are meeting with a Human Resources manager, for example, remember that this is what they do for a living. They most probably have a set of standard questions that they ask all candidates, as well as being on their own turf. Recognize that they will understand if you are nervous (though a good HR person will help you to feel more relaxed) and are basically winging it. Even if you’ve done due diligence and Googled common interview questions to practice with, you’re still on a journey into the unknown. If you flub up, just put your hands in your lap and focus, and breathe. Smile and ask if you can start over. Showing that you know how to react in awkward moments will tell your interviewer more about you than all the perfect answers in the world. These tactics and suggestions were researched and developed by Lisa Peteres, a fellow HR specialist from Cognitive Group, and IT recruitment agency helping thousands of job seekers.

Finally, good luck! And remember, there are always more fish (and dates, and jobs) out there in the big sea…