On your path to the dream job, you’ll encounter a number of obstacles. One of the largest among these is the interview – or interviews, as it’s common to have multiple before being offered a position. No one likes to be studied and examined, which is why interviews can be so intimidating. However, if you know how to prepare yourself to perform before, during, and after the interview, you’ll have a better shot at every opening you apply for.

Prepare

One of the easiest things to do right in the interview process is preparation, which is why it’s surprising more people don’t invest the necessary time beforehand. Start by Googling the company and finding out everything you can online, including news coverage. Check out the company’s mission statement. They’re probably going to ask what you think of it, and you may not get a call back if you answer with a blank stare.

Next, look into the company’s history and what it has been involved in. Find out what projects the company has completed and what it may currently be working on. This kind of research gives you a more in-depth understanding of the company before the interview, often suggests questions you may want to ask, and can also help you decide whether this is a company you actually want to work for.

Look like a winner

The interview starts the moment you walk in the door, or even before you get dressed and walk out your own door. Surveys show that hiring managers sometimes make their hiring decision within as little as 30 seconds of meeting an applicant, which is why it’s so important to nail the first impression. When first meeting an interviewer, look him or her in the eye, give a firm handshake, and smile. Make sure to maintain good posture throughout the interview, and be aware that your body language can be as important as what you say.

Looking like a winner also involves dressing the part. When in doubt, go for business dress, but it’s also perfectly acceptable to ask before the interview what the expected dress is. More information on that here.

Converse

Most interviews are more successful if you are able to turn them into conversations rather than straight Q&A. This isn’t a trial before a judge; rather, it’s an employer getting to know a potential hire. Be professional but at the same time, be human. Start off with some pleasantries before going into business-talk. “Great-looking facility you have here.” “Congrats on [one of their recent achievements you read about beforehand.]” The first few seconds of conversation set the tone of the entire interview, so it’s important to start off positive.

Aside from technical skills, one of the primary goals of the interview is to help the company decide whether or not you are a good fit for their culture. You may be the most qualified individual for the job but if they don’t think you’ll get along well with the rest of the team, they probably won’t want to bring you on.

Follow up

Chances are you’re one of many candidates interviewing for the job. An easy way to stand out is to send a thank-you to each person you met during the interview process. Email is perfectly acceptable for the most part, but snail-mail – while more work – makes more of an impression in an electronic world. Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent, says that a thank-you note “can help them to remember you in the sea of people they interact with on a daily basis.”

If it’s two weeks after the interview and they still haven’t contacted you, go ahead and follow up. Even if they’ve decided to hire someone else, this is can be a great opportunity to gain some feedback. If you politely and sincerely ask them what you could have done better or what qualifications you could improve on to boost your chances of being hired, they’ll usually be happy to provide you with an answer. This valuable information lets you know what to improve on for future interviews.

In conclusion

Interviewing is a form of art, and some will naturally be more gifted at it than others. However, with enough practice and preparation, anyone can master it. If things don’t work out with the first interview, adjust your approach and keep trying. Practice may not make you perfect, but it generally does make you better and better each time. Good luck!

This article is tailored specifically for internship positions.