A job interview can be an intimidating process for even the most confident and outgoing person. A sure cure for nervousness and feelings of incompetence is to come to the interview prepared.

Interviewing can be one of the most stressful parts of the job search but it need not be. The tips outlined here can help to make it a more enjoyable experience. The purpose of a job interview is not to intimidate or make the candidate nervous. The purpose is twofold: the company is trying to determine whether you are the best fit for the position, and you are trying to determine whether the company and the position are a good fit for you.

The number one rule

Never turn down an interview. You never know what valuable contacts you will make. Even if the job isn't right for you, an interview gives you the opportunity to practice your techniques. You never know when the right job will come along.

Practice makes perfect

Never walk into a job interview cold. Rehearse the answers to common interview questions with a friend. Prepare a list of questions to ask about the company and the position. Memorizing the questions leaves you free to engage in the conversation but still gives the impression of spontaneity.

Look the part

The rule of thumb is to dress one step above how the employees dress. Drive past the office on your way to work, call the Human Resources Department, or go with the recommendation of the search firm you’re working with. If you are not sure, it is always safe for men to wear a suit and tie and for women to wear a suit.

Make a good lasting impression

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your potential employers will typically form an impression of you within the first few minutes of meeting you. Be prepared. Arrive early. Complete as many of the forms as you can in advance, and bring current resumes (more than one, please), portfolios, references and samples with you. Smile and be courteous to everyone. Greet people by name and with a firm handshake, and look people in the eye. Make sure you can pronounce the interviewer's name properly. It goes without saying that most business environments do not allow smoking. Do not arrive at the interview with the odor of tobacco smoke on your clothes and person. Make sure your cell phone and other electronic gear are in the silent mode or turned off.

Do your homework

Use internet search engines to research the organization and its services, products, annual report and competitors. Free online quote services can give you up-to-the-minute information about any publicly traded company. Knowing all you can about a company shows the interviewer that you will take the extra steps to do a good job. Read any organizational literature that is available while you are waiting for the interviewer. You cannot put in too much preparation time.

Demonstrate your value

Most interviews begin with questions about your background, experience and qualifications, followed by questions about the company and job. The interviewer is looking for you to show how you can help the company with examples from your past experiences. Prepare a list of questions to ask about the job and company at the appropriate time. Save questions about salary and benefits until after a job offer has been made, but at a first interview it is acceptable to ask for specifics about who you would report to and the duties and expectations of the position.

Let them get to know you

Practicing concise responses to common questions will keep you from rambling or being tongue-tied when the interviewer asks open-ended questions. Highly compensated job coaches require job candidates to write a 100-word paragraph about the last several years of their career and to be capable of reciting it at a moment’s notice. This will put you at ease and help you to project preparation and intelligence. You can never over practice.

Social networking websites

We are certainly in the age of easy access to a wide range of personal information. If you participate in social networking sites such as Facebook, take some time to review your postings and make sure they convey information that you would be willing to share with a prospective employer. Information that might be appropriate for your friends and peer group could, in some cases, demonstrate that you are not the type of candidate a prospective employer is seeking.

Mind your body language

Body language is every bit as important as verbal communication. Interviewers are acutely aware of gestures, expressions, inflections and tone of voice. These will indicate your level of interest in the position and your self confidence.

Control the interview

The purpose of the interview is to clearly communicate your ability to handle the position in question. Often the interviewer is not skilled at asking questions that would bring out the most important aspects of your experience and successes. If the information you present is not comprehensive, you and the potential employer may leave the interview without sufficient and necessary information to make an informed decision. Ask targeted questions and offer additional information to make sure all important parts of your skills, experience and abilities are presented. However, it is important to maintain a balance between the potential employer’s questions and comments and your own.

You are selling yourself

You will want to convey your skills, knowledge, abilities, and accomplishments. Have several accomplishments in mind and be sure that the interviewer understands that you can accomplish things and achieve results. Companies are looking for people to solve their problems. They will hire you if they truly believe in your ability to help them.

One last chance

At the end of the interview, review some of the points you’ve made, and summarize how your skills will benefit the company. Most important, let the interviewer know that you are interested in the position. Conclude on a positive note and always thank the interviewer for the time and opportunity given you. Ask the interviewer, "What is the next step?" Watch for phrases such as "when are you available" or "we need to get you in to see Mr. Jones"—these are sure signs of interest.

Make it easy to hire you

One of the biggest impressions you can make after the interview ends is to send a simple thank-you note. Use formal stationery and write it by hand. Sending a thank-you note can mean the difference between an offer and a rejection. Briefly express your appreciation for the interview, reaffirm your qualifications and interest in the position and include something that you and the interviewer agreed on. A good thank-you note will show how you will fit in with the company.

Additional resources

Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions by Matthew J. Deluca

Get Hired! Winning Strategies to Ace the Interview by Paul C. Green