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How to interview better than 99% of people

How can you get better at interviewing?

How nervous do you get during interviews? Have you lost a job because of your interviewing skills? Or gotten one because you nailed your future employer's questions? Mastering the art of the interview is important for everyone. Ramit Sethi, a personal finance adviser and author of the bestseller "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," says he can teach people how to interview better than 99 percent of people in the world -- because the bar isn't set very high. He says most people go into an interview and have already started off doing things wrong.

"The No. 1 mistake we make when we go in for a job interview is believing that an interview is all about answering questions. It's about creating a narrative and communicating your key messages," says Sethi.

Sethi advises interviewees to know their three key talking points. Interviewees should answer questions they are asked, of course, but also be sure to communicate their key messages. Where do most people go wrong? He says 80 percent of a job candidate's work is done before even stepping foot into an interviewing room.

"The research that we do is what makes us the best at interviewing. For example, if you've done your homework you know what the key challenges of that company are. You also know what that role entails and who they work with. So you start using the words that the company uses and all of a sudden that interviewer, his or her eyes are going to light up. They're going to say, 'Wow this person came prepared.' That separates you from everyone else," says Sethi.

That enables an interviewee to start having a conversation as opposed to an interview. If you've been lucky enough to nail the interview and get a job offer, what about deciding upon a salary figure? Should you name an amount?

"It's not your job to name the salary. Let them name it first," says Sethi. "You can say, 'You know what, I'm sure that we can find a number that works for both of us. I'm very interested in the position. I would love to know how I can contribute to the organization.' Let them make the first move. So when you do, you will find that they will make you an offer and you will come back at them. You'll have your homework, you'll have a number in your head. But when you make the first offer -- I've seen this happen many, many times -- people chronically short themselves."

Sethi says you should also not reveal what you made at your last job. That's not their responsibility to know, he says.

"A top performer would not be super concerned with money up front because they know that they are great and they know that the money is going to come" says Sethi. "If they ask you in the middle of an interview, 'What were you paid or how much do you want to be paid,' you say, 'You know what, I'm sure we can figure out the money later, but right now I just want to figure out if this is a good fit for you and if this is a good fit for me.'"

Sethi says these days things like benefits are also negotiable. The key is getting the company to want you first. He advises job candidates to practice their negotiating skills before even sitting down for an interview. And once you've been hired, Sethi says you should pick a list of people that work at the company and have at least two lunches a week with them to build a network.

"No agenda. No items. Just say, 'I just started working here. I've heard great things about you. I'd love to know what you do and how you got to this position," he says.

For more advice on negotiating a raise, where to search for work, and how to find your dream job, click play on the audio player above.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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