¿Por qué las personas emocionalmente inteligentes son más exitosas?

Research shows that people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or relevant experience.

We’ve learned that emotional intelligence (EQ) is a crucial skill for both leaders and employees. But several studies point to just how important EQ can be to success, even trumping IQ and experience.

Research by the respected Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in the U.S. found that the primary causes of executive derailment involve deficiencies in emotional competence. Each year, CCL serves more than 20,000 individuals and 2,000 organizations, including more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. It says the three main reasons for failure are difficulty in handling change, inability to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.

International search firm Egon Zehnder International analyzed 515 senior executives and discovered that those who were strongest in emotional intelligence were more likely to succeed than those strongest in either IQ or relevant previous experience. Research that has been done on the relationship between emotional intelligence (EQ) and IQ has shown only a weak correlation between the two.

The Carnegie Institute of Technology carried out research that showed that 85% of our financial success was due to skills in «human engineering», personality, and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. They found that only 15% was due to technical ability. In other words people skills or skills highly related to emotional intelligence were crucial skills. Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t, even if that that person is offering a better product at a lower Price.

To test out his findings, think of the last time you purchased a major item, a home, automobile, or large appliance where you had to dealings with a salesperson. Was the person someone who you liked and trusted? In my talks, I have found that whenever I asked that question, inevitably the entire audience answered that, yes, the person they bought a large item from was someone they liked and trusted. This theory about why salespeople with the right people skills do better than those who lack them is borne out by a study carried out by the Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group in 1997. In a study carried out in a large national insurance company in 1997, they found that sales agents weak in emotional areas such as self-confidence, initiative, and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000, while those strong in 5 of 8 emotional competencies sold policies on the average worth $114,000.

Much of the research that has been done on emotional intelligence has been at the executive leadership level. The higher up the organization, the more crucial emotional intelligence abilities are as the impacts are greater and felt throughout the entire organization. There have been some studies, however, that show impacts at all levels.

For example, a study by McClelland in 1999 showed that after supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better, lost-time accidents decreased by 50% and grievances went down from 15 per year to three. The plant itself exceeded productivity goals by $250,000.

The same principles apply in all areas of life, whether at work or in relationships. Everyone wants to work with people who are easy to get along with, supportive, likeable, and can be trusted. We want to be beside people that do not get upset easily and can keep their composure when things do not work out according to plan.

How Do You Hire Emotionally Intelligent People?

Self-awareness. The first thing that is essential for any degree of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. People with a high degree of self-awareness have a solid understanding of their own emotions, their strengths, weaknesses, and what drives them. Neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful, these people are honest with themselves and others. These people recognize how their feelings impact them, other people around them, and their performance at work. They have a good understanding of their values and goals and where they are going in life. They are confident as well as aware of their limitations and less likely to set themselves up for failure.

We can recognize self-aware people by their willingness to talk about themselves in a frank, non-defensive manner. A good interview question is to ask about a time that the interviewee got carried away by their emotions and did something they later regretted. The self-aware person will be open and frank with their answers. Self-deprecating humor is a good indicator of someone who has good self-awareness. Red flags are people who stall or try to avoid the question, seem irritated, or frustrated by the question.

Ability To Self-Regulate Emotions. We all have emotions which drive us and there is nothing we can do to avoid them. People who are good at self-regulation, however, are able to manage their emotions so that they do not control their words and actions. While they feel bad moods and impulses as much as anyone else, they do not act upon them. People who act upon their negative feelings create havoc, disruptions, and lasting bad feelings all around them. We feel before we think and people who constantly react from an emotional state never wait long enough to allow their thoughts to override their emotions.

People who self-regulate have the ability to wait until their emotions pass, allowing them to respond from a place of reason, rather than simply reacting to feelings. The signs of someone who is good at self-regulation are reflection, thoughtfulness, comfort with ambiguity, change, and not having all the answers. In an interview, look for people who take a little time to reflect and think before they answer.

Empathy. Empathy is another important aspect to look for when hiring. Someone who has empathy will have an awareness of the feelings of others and consider those feelings in their words and actions. This does not mean that they will tiptoe around or be unwilling to make tough decisions for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It simply means that they are aware of, and take into consideration the impact on others. They are willing to share their own worries and concerns and openly acknowledge other’s emotions. A good way to look for empathy in an interview is to ask a candidate about a situation where a co-worker was angry with them and how they dealt with it. Look for a willingness to understand the source of the co-workers anger, even though they may not agree with the reasons for it.

Social skills. Social skill is another area of emotional intelligence that is highly important in the workplace. To have good social skills requires a high level of the other skills aforementioned as well as the ability to relate and find common ground with a wide range of people. It goes beyond just friendliness and the ability to get along with others.

People with social skills are excellent team players as they have the ability to move an agenda along and keep focus while at the same time remaining aware of the emotional climate of the group and possess the ability to respond to it. These people are excellent at making connections, networking, and bringing people together to work on projects. They are able to bring their emotional intelligence skills into play in a larger arena. To look for social skills in an interview, ask questions related to projects and difficulties encountered around varying agendas, temperaments, and getting people to buy in.

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Lo que realmente motiva a los trabajadores en sus 20s

As we all know, young workers are a contemptible bunch. They’re “lazy,” and lack the admirable work ethic of their elders. They have an overblown sense of entitlement, believing they have some kind of right to walk right into a plum job in their early twenties rather than working their way up. They might even be a generation of narcissists, a consequence of their over-indulgent helicopter parents and a culture that favors giving every kid on the soccer team a trophy just for showing up.

Actually, like many things “we all know,” these nasty stereotypes disintegrate quickly when exposed to the harsh light of research evidence. For the past 20 years I have been studying 18- to 29-year-olds, a stage of life I call “emerging adulthood.” I coined this term to help people recognize that young people grow up later than they did in the past, in terms of entering adult commitments such as stable work, marriage, and parenthood. The rise of emerging adulthood does not mean that young people today are defective, only that it takes longer to prepare for the workplace than it did before and that they (wisely) want to enjoy a brief period of freedom before settling into adult responsibilities. My research, involving many hundreds of in-depth interviews and several national surveys involving thousands of young people, has shown that the negative stereotypes are mostly false and today’s emerging adults are a remarkably idealistic and hard-striving generation.

Our recent 2015 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, asked a national sample of 1,000 21- to 29-year-olds a wide range of questions related to education and the entry to work. We focused on ages 21 to 29 because the goal was to examine the transition to work during the twenties. The results were illuminating, and provide important information for anyone who works with or employs emerging adults. Here are some of the highlights:

Not lazy, but often not fully committed to the job. Most see themselves as diligent workers; 89% agreed that “No matter what job I am doing, I try to do it as well as possible.” However, 40% also admitted that “On a normal work day, I try to get by with doing as little work as possible.” This blasé attitude may be due to the fact that many of them are currently in transition jobs, while they finish school or try to decide what field they really want to pursue; 46% agreed that “My job with my current employer is temporary.”

Willing to work their way up, but not to be exploited. They recognize that it takes time to gain expertise in a job, which often means doing the lower-level work for a while; 78% agreed that “If I were in a boring job, I would be patient and try to move up within the company.” On the other hand, they believe that good faith should go both ways; 54% agreed that “If employers do not pay me well, they do not deserve my best work effort.”

Many are distracted by social media while on the job. Today’s emerging adults have been called a generation of “digital natives” who grew up with social media as second nature, in contrast to their mostly “digital immigrant” employers, who came to social media later and often grudgingly. This generation gap is evident in the 2015 Clark Poll results, in which 54% agreed that “I do not see anything wrong with checking my Facebook page, tweeting, or texting with friends now and then in the course of a normal work day.” One suspects their employers would beg to differ.

In addition to these recent findings, previous research has shown emerging adults to be not the narcissists of legend but strikingly idealistic and generous-hearted about work. In the 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, which was also a national survey, 79% of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that “It is more important to enjoy my job than to make a lot of money,” and 86% agreed that “It is important to me to have a career that does some good in the world.” These expectations may be unrealistically high; in the 2015 poll, 76% stated that “I am still looking for my ideal job.” Also, 71% admitted that “I have not made as much progress in my career as I would have hoped by now.” They remain restless and searching as emerging adults; 66% agreed that “My current job is not in the field I hope to be in 10 years from now.”

So what is the bottom line here for their older colleagues who are puzzled by these young workers? I’d recommend giving them a chance to show who they are and what they can do, as individuals. That is, don’t assume they are going to fulfill your worst expectations for their generation. They may not be as diligent as you would like them to be, or as focused on work that is more important to you than it is to them at this transitional time of their lives. They may be more distractible by social media than you would wish, and less committed to staying with your company for the long run. But they are eager to find engaging work that they can enjoy, and to do something important that can make some kind of positive contribution to the world around them. If you can find ways to direct their energy and idealism in productive ways, they may surprise you.

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CEOs con hijas dirigen empresas más socialmente responsables: Entrevista con Henrik Cronqvist

The Study: Henrik Cronqvist of the University of Miami and Frank Yu of China Europe International Business School compared the corporate social responsibility ratings of S&P 500 companies with information about the offspring of their chief executive officers. The researchers found that when a firm was led by a CEO with at least one daughter, it scored an average of 11.9% higher on CSR metrics and spent 13.4% more of its net income on CSR than the median.

The Challenge: Do daughters make us better corporate citizens? Could the gender of your child really affect the way you run a business?

Professor Cronqvist, defend your research.

Cronqvist: There is definitely a correlation. Controlling for other factors, companies run by executives with female children rated higher on the measures of diversity, employee relations, and environmental stewardship tracked by the CSR research and analytics group KLD from 1992 to 2012. We also saw a smaller but still meaningful link with the provision of products and services that are more socially responsible. And having daughters coincided with spending significantly more net income on CSR than the median. That female influence does appear to affect the decisions these executives make, which translates into shifted priorities for their organizations.

HBR: So daughters—not sons—support CSR, and their parents follow that lead?

That’s the theory. The literature in economics, psychology, and sociology suggests that women tend to care more about the well-being of other people and of society than men do, and that female children can increase those sympathies in their parents. For example, research from Eboyna Washington at Yale has shown that U.S. congressmen who have daughters tend to vote more liberally, particularly on legislation involving reproductive rights. Adam Glynn of Emory and Maya Sen of Harvard found a similar pattern among U.S. Court of Appeals judges in cases involving gender issues.

We’ve always known that parents influence their children. It’s clear now that the reverse is also true. Children can change the way their parents think and act—not just at home but also at work. It’s a different spin on nurture versus nature.

Just one daughter does the trick?

When we looked at family size, we found that CEOs had 2.5 children, on average—a bit higher than the U.S. standard—and that 48.5% of all those kids were girls, which corresponds to the gender ratio in the general population. Ratings for and spending on CSR at companies did increase the more daughters a CEO had, but the effect wasn’t linear. Just having the treatment (a daughter) mattered much more than the dosage (the number of daughters).

Does the age of the daughter matter?

What matters is probably not the birth per se but the accumulation of experiences over time. The median age of S&P 500 CEOs in our sample was 57, so most of them have grown children. Those with girls may, for example, have seen their daughters discriminated against in the labor market, which could have an impact on their attitudes about equality.

What about female CEOs? Do they need this “treatment” to prioritize CSR, or does nature take care of that?

Unfortunately, our sample of female CEOs—14 out of the 379 executives for which we could collect data—was too small to draw any firm conclusions. But the companies they led did have much stronger CSR ratings in every KLD-tracked category—not only diversity, employee relations, environment, and product, but also human rights and community. We suspect that a CEO’s own gender matters even more than the gender of his or her children. By our calculation, having a male CEO with a daughter produces slightly less than a third of the effect of having a female CEO. Comparisons of the data on congressmen and judges yielded similar numbers. So you could hypothesize that, on average, any man behaves one-third more “female” when he parents a girl.

Do sons do anything for you?

All we know is that they show no effect on CSR ratings or spending at their parents’ companies. It would be interesting to see if they matter for other economic behaviors—risk taking, for example.

What about wives or sisters? Could they influence executives too?

We originally intended to study the broad structure of the CEOs’ families. But even the data on children was difficult to collect. Out of 1,224 S&P 500 CEOs who served and whose companies were ranked by KLD during the period we studied, we could find information on the number and gender of offspring for only 379. Finding out whether they had a sister or not might have been impossible, though it would be interesting to test that one out. As for spouses, we didn’t look at that factor specifically, but given that most of the male CEOs with sons had wives and that sons had no effect on CSR ratings, we would guess that wives don’t matter as much for this issue.

Going back to daughters: Should the shareholders of S&P 500 companies be concerned about the undue influence they’re having on how CEOs spend company money?

It wasn’t our goal to determine whether the economic outcome here was good or bad. We just wanted to know why some companies invest more time and money in socially responsible endeavors than others do. Some of it may have to do with the company itself—the industry or sector in which it operates, or its culture, mission, or location. But the specific executives in charge probably play a role too. Alberta Di Giuli at ESCP Europe and Leonard Kostovetsky at the University of Rochester looked at the impact of the political affiliations of founders, CEOs, and directors and found that U.S. firms led by those who leaned Democratic had higher CSR ratings and spending than the firms run by Republicans did. Of course, whom you vote for is a choice, which could be correlated to many other factors. The gender of your child typically isn’t: The odds of having a boy or a girl is roughly 50/50 every time. That’s why we thought it was a less obvious and more interesting characteristic to study. You might say it’s surprising that these very powerful people can be influenced by their children. But there are lots of studies showing that professional investors succumb to the same biases as the rest of us.

Would you expect to see the same relationship between CEOs’ daughters and social responsibility at non-U.S. companies?

It’s possible, though cultural attitudes about gender equality would certainly have to be factored in. Maybe having a daughter would matter less in patriarchal societies; maybe it would matter more. You could certainly get the CSR ratings for firms in other parts of the world, but collecting the information about executives’ children would be more of a challenge.

Why are you and your coauthor so interested in CSR? Let me guess: You have daughters.

Actually, I don’t have any children. Frank just had his first—a son. Either way, we’re going to keep studying this topic. Researchers should do more work to understand the impact of the family on corporate decision making.

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How great leaders inspire action

Simon Sinek nos presenta un simple pero poderoso modelo para un liderazgo inspirador – nos expone el círculo de oro y la pregunta «¿Por qué?» con ejemplos que incluyen a Apple, Martin Luther King y los hermanos Wright.

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What’s trust got to do with it?

David Horsager nos comparte su investigación acerca de la confianza, haciendo uso de comedia y experiencias personales con infantes, corporaciones y personas no pensantes. ¿Conoces el impacto que tiene el concepto de “confianza” en tu vida? Entérate aquí.

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How to make work-life balance work

Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.

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Don’t call it a scandal: Volkswagen corruption is a syndrome

What were they thinking?

That’s the question on everyone’s mind as the Volkswagen crisis unfolds. That question makes a big assumption: that the company’s leaders were thinking about anything beyond their greed. About decency, about our environment, about their progeny.

Okay, so you will not buy a Volkswagen. A Chevrolet instead? Watch out for the ignition. Or how about a Toyota? Just duck as the airbag comes your way. Do you, by any chance, see a pattern? Have we been thinking?

In Europe, the United States, Japan and most everywhere else, something is going on. There is a level of sheer corruption that transcends the automobile industry.

How about banking in the United States and Europe? How about politics, most everywhere? Now Brazil is receiving a lot of attention, while the utter corruption of U.S. politics – private money in public elections, a level of lobbying out of control – carries merrily along.

A good deal of the corruption is criminal, and so can be prosecuted. So why don’t we prosecute corporate criminals, and not just corporate crimes? And why don’t we set the fines to indicate that corporate crime doesn’t pay?

If you wish to steal, don’t grab somebody’s iPhone; the government will throw the book at you.

Devise some financial manoeuvre – a little more clever than a Ponzi scheme – to defraud many people of much money. If you wish to commit manslaughter, don’t do it as the driver of a car; do it as the designer of the car. Executives and engineers at General Motors knew there were problems with those ignition switches, which led to multiple fatalities, yet they have walked off scot-free.

Far more insidious, however, is the legal corruption, because it is so prevalent. Goldman Sachs allegedly manipulated the market for recycled aluminum so that it could siphon off $5-billion (U.S.) by moving ingots from one warehouse to another. What were they thinking? That’s easy: $5-billion.

The company claimed to have broken no law. And that is precisely the problem: Our societies are being destroyed by this legal corruption.

University professors are in cahoots with pharmaceutical companies that think nothing of charging hundreds of thousands of dollars for life-and-death products that cost them hundreds of dollars to produce. And economists who cannot see past markets support such nonsense. Are they thinking at all? Some markets. This is the exploitation of monopolies called patents whose prices are not being regulated. And not just any old monopolies: People have to die for want of these, for the sake of obscene profiteering. What kind of a society tolerates this?

Are you seeing the pattern? It’s not a scandal; it’s a syndrome. The Volkswagen affair is just a blatant case of an accelerating trend. Expect it to get worse, because we are living in a world where predatory capitalism is triumphing.

In 1989, pundits declared that capitalism had triumphed. Wrong. Balance triumphed. The developed countries of the West were balanced back then.

Think of the United States after the Second World War – higher levels of taxation, fairer distribution of wealth, generous welfare programs – and with all that, remarkable development, political and social as well as economic. The communist states of Eastern Europe collapsed because they were utterly out of balance, with so much power concentrated in their public sectors.

It turns out the Berlin Wall fell on us: Predatory capitalism has been triumphing since 1989, throwing much of the world out of balance, on the side of private sectors. They are dominating government and much of society, with the consequences described above.

What were they thinking at Volkswagen?

Okay, so this particular company was particularly dumb. But how many others are close behind, just a bit smarter to keep out of the spotlight?

Remember the 1989 concept of “the end of history,” the widely accepted claim that human society had reached perfection, thanks to our relentless greed?

Well, watch out: Unless we get our act together, here it comes.

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A Relaxed Mind is a Productive Mind

A steady dose of toxic energy from higher-ups will encourage valuable team members to update their résumés rather than their to-do lists.

Julie Mosow’s Harvard Business Review article,  “Help Your Overwhelmed, Stressed-Out Team,”offered some useful, practical approaches to help a leader keep her team calm and focused.

But one key element was missing from the mix: the leader’s mindset. If a leader is filled with stress, conflict, anxiety, and negative emotions, it spreads like a virus. A steady dose of toxic energy from higher-ups will encourage valuable team members to update their résumés rather than their to-do lists.

Our Brain on Stress

When we’re under stress, the brain secretes hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that in the best scenario mobilize us to handle a short-term emergency, but in the worst scenario create an ongoing hazard for performance. In that case, attention narrows to focus on the cause of the stress, not the task at hand. Our memory reshuffles to promote thoughts most relevant to what’s stressing us, and we fall back on negative learned habits. The brain’s executive centers—our neural circuitry for paying attention, comprehending, and learning—are hijacked by our networks for handling stress.

Emotional Contagion

In 2000, Caroline Bartel at New York University and Richard Saavedra at the University of Michigan found that in 70 work teams across diverse industries, people in meetings together ended up sharing moods—both good and bad—within two hours. One study asked teams of nurses and accountants to monitor their moods over weeks; researchers discovered that their emotions tracked together, and they were largely independent of each team’s shared hassles. Groups, therefore, like individuals, ride emotional roller coasters, sharing everything from jealousy to angst to euphoria.

Practice Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is a key ability of emotional intelligence. People who can manage their emotions well are able to recover more quickly from stress arousal. This means, at the neural level, quieting the amygdala and other stress circuits, which frees up the capacities of the executive centers. Attention becomes nimble and focused again, the mind flexible, the body relaxed. And a state of relaxed alertness is optimal for performance.

Your Focus Determines Your Mental State

As my colleague George Kohlrieser pointed out in my Leadership: A Master Class series, how you manage your emotions is determined by what you focus on.

Think of the mind’s eye as a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight—to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.

And keep in mind that a leader not only has to focus her mind’s eye, but help others focus their minds’ eyes as well.

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Yes, Your Résumé Needs a Summary

How long will recruiters spend on your résumé before deciding to toss it in the recycle bin? Six seconds, says online job search site The Ladders. That’s about 20 to 30 words.

So how do you write those first few lines of your resume—the summary section—to compel the recruiter to keep reading? How do you make sure you get the call—and not the toss? How do you make your summary memorable?

Here’s a checklist:

  • Tailor your summary to each job application. Highlight your areas of expertise most relevant to that position.
  • Then focus on specific results you’ve achieved in those areas of expertise—how other organizations have improved because of you.
  • Note the types of organizations and industries you’ve worked in.
  • Include years of experience.
  • Avoid generic terms such as results-driven, proven track record, excellent communication skills, team player.

Let’s look at a few examples of powerful summaries:

“Pharmaceutical marketing executive with 20 years of experience creating commercial infrastructures, growing brands, and optimizing product value throughout launch, re-launch, and sunset life cycles across all customer segments—payers, physicians, and patients. Lead global marketing and commercial operations teams with P&Ls up to $2B.”

“EHS director with 20 years of experience driving regulatory compliance and employees’ health and safety across industries—manufacturing, retail, and healthcare. Develop award-winning, injury-reducing ergonomic equipment. Launch LMS training programs and engaging websites to inform thousands of employees.”

“Online ad sales director with 12 years of experience leading sales teams in start-up, rapidly growing, and established companies. Maximize profitability of ads across all platforms, including games, mobile, social, and web. Consistently exceed revenue targets—even when battling Facebook and other relentless competitors in crowded markets.”

Now let’s look at how these summaries followed the checklist:

Tailor your summary to each job application. Make a list of the three or four most important responsibilities of each posting and then highlight those in your summary. This immediately tells the hiring manager that you’ve solved the same types of problems she’s dealing with. And it’s worth her time to keep reading and then interview you.

Focus on specific results. How have other organizations benefited from your work? And which of your accomplishments distinguish you from other candidates?

The marketing executive (above) built commercial infrastructures from scratch, made drugs profitable from launch to sunset, and managed $2B P&Ls. The EHS director invented award-winning ergonomic equipment—quite a distinctive accomplishment within his more general health and safety achievements. And the sales director broke into the online game market with sponsored ads. He also left the reader eager to know more by noting his David and Goliath-like confrontation with Facebook.

Note the types of organizations and industries you’ve worked in. The marketing executive began her summary with “pharmaceutical”—the one industry she’s worked in throughout her career. The EHS director highlighted his work across three industries–retail, manufacturing, and healthcare. And the sales executive noted his accomplishments across media companies at three stages of development—start-up, growth, and well-established.

Now, if you’re applying for a position in an industry different from the one you’re currently in, here’s an example of an alternative structure for your résumé summary. This person was applying for a senior project manager position at Disney, but her most recent work was in children’s museums:

  • Project manager with 18 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to deliver children’s technology products and family museum experiences to international audiences.
  • Strategy leader for brands with complex and diverse product lines.
  • Communicator skilled at exciting audiences at conferences, online, and in products and exhibits.”

She called attention to the three areas of expertise most important to the Disney position—project management, strategy leadership, and communication–using bullets and bolding. She then followed this summary with a Selected Accomplishments section documenting her achievements in each of those areas. The second page of her résumé used the more traditional Experience format to describe her positions in descending chronological order.

Avoid generic terms. Rather than simply claiming to be results-driven, all these summaries state the results the applicants achieved. Eschewing overused terms enables recruiters to immediately see what you’ve done, pique their interest, and encourage them to learn more.

A note about LinkedIn: Unlike three- or four-line résumé summaries, you have up to 2,000 characters in the summary section of your LinkedIn profile to highlight accomplishments and connect them to what you want to do next. For much more detail about how to write a LinkedIn summary, read How to Use Your LinkedIn Profile to Power a Career Transition.

The other sections of your resume are, of course, also important. But it’s a rich, accomplishment-focused summary that will stop the reader in her tracks and keep her from passing you over for the next candidate. Make it immediately clear that you have what it takes to excel in her position. Distinguish yourself from other applicants. And expect the phone to start ringing.

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What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Focus on Before a Job Interview

Years ago, when I was interviewing for the job of deputy editor at Harvard Business Review, I thought I had carefully prepared for my full day of interviews. I had my favorite suit dry cleaned and ready to go. I took my older daughter (a notoriously bad sleeper) to my parents’ house so I could count on getting a full night’s sleep. I even did a dry run of the unfamiliar drive to the office on the Sunday before my interview. I was ready for anything.

Or so I thought. The night before the interview, my younger daughter, normally a sound sleeper, started teething and cried continuously. Far from well-rested in the morning, I somehow managed to slice a hole in the suit when I tried to cut off the plastic dry cleaner wrap. With my second favorite suit on, I headed out the door with my driving directions in hand (this was pre-GPS!). Unfortunately, the map directed me on a heavily trafficked route — something I hadn’t encountered on my Sunday dry run. After sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I ended up at the interview a solid half hour late — and seriously ruffled by my series of setbacks.

In hindsight, I can laugh at what happened (especially since I got the job) but I also realize that I had focused on all the wrong things: logistics and details instead of substance. That mistake could’ve easily derailed what was to be one of the most important job opportunities of my career.

Stress about job interviews feels like a given for most of us. And we often don’t make it easy on ourselves since we head into these critical moments with only a scant amount of preparation. “Even relatively smart people don’t prepare very well for interviews,” says John Lees, author of The Interview Expert: How to Get the Job You Want. Instead, we wing it. And that ends up making us nervous in the very moment that we’re most trying to impress. And as Lees points out, “nervousness is intimately related to underperforming.”

So, how do you manage the inevitable stress of a job interview and prepare correctly?

“Prepare yourself even more thoroughly than you think is necessary,” Lees advises. You may be perfectly qualified on paper, but presenting your best self in the interview room — someone who is energized and relaxed and easy to work with — is a rehearsed performance. Here’s how Lees advises you avoid the interview jitters:

Develop a real script. Most interview questions are utterly predictable, he says. You can probably sketch out the 10 or 12 things you will be asked. Why should we hire you? Why do you fit this role? I notice some gaps in your resume … and so on. Practice answers to those questions. Actually say the words out loud. It’s not good enough to think about how you’ll roughly answer. Lees calls that “false preparation.” Really do it. “It’s about building up small narratives,” Lees says, so that you have answers at the ready and you’re freed up to be far more present in the interview room. Plus you’ll probably give far more succinct and responsive answers. Remember that the interviewer needs to learn a certain amount about you in a short span of time. If you ramble on with one or two answers, you might use up all your time and you risk coming off as a self-absorbed bore.

Prepare for questions you want to avoid. If there’s something on your resume you’d rather not highlight, chances are your interviewer will be curious. You have a better chance of moving swiftly past the topic if you practice your answer ahead of time. “Keep it short and upbeat,” Lees advises. Let’s say you were laid off. You can say something like: “Like hundreds of other people, I lost my role when the company downsized. But that gave me a chance to look at the skills I’ve developed and identify new areas of growth.” Shift your answer from the past to the present and keep the conversation in a comfortable place.

If you are thrown for a loop by a question, take a minute to think about how you’ll answer before responding. Introverts, Lees points out, often need time to process a question. You can buy time by summarizing the question or framing it in your own way. “That’s a really great question. When I answer it, I’m going to discuss…” The worst thing you can do is look or act flustered. That communicates incompetence. If you have to, tell your interviewer: “Let me think about that for a minute…” and then only answer when you’re ready.

Make sure you’re actually listening. When people are nervous, they tend to focus on themselves, what they’re saying, how they’re responding. But anxiety can be a blocker that stops you from listening, or makes you miss something vital your interviewer just asked. Try to slow yourself down by taking slow breaths and focusing on the interviewer’s words, not your ruminations. If it’s a complicated question, it’s OK to repeat it and then ask, “Have I got this right?” before you start to answer.

Invent a conference call to give yourself a break. One of my former bosses once passed on an excellent tip. If you’re scheduled for back-to-back interviews, tell your contact in advance that you have a conference call you must attend and ask if there’s a private room for you to do that. That will allow you a small respite from the intensity of being “on” for several hours in a row. This trick is especially helpful for introverts but could help anyone who is likely to be exhausted from a long schedule of interviews (and who isn’t?).

Pre-script your own questions. You know you’re going to be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. “No” is always the wrong answer. Have one or two good questions ready about the future of the company or the future of the role you are interviewing for.

Ask a trusted friend to mock interview you — and videotape it. If there’s anyone in your life with real world interview experience, ask them to practice with you. But both of you have to take it seriously. It’s a great dry run. Lees suggests videotaping the interview (your phone camera will likely do the trick) — and then watching it without the sound. Body language can be a critical component of your interview and “you’ll see how you present yourself,” he says. With practice, you have a chance to observe and correct your nonverbal messages before you’re in the hot seat.

Of course, being nervous is normal but don’t dismiss your jitters. Instead, be as ready as you can by doing the work of the interview well before you get into the room, says Lees. And he suggests you ignore anyone who tries to calm your nerves by telling you to “Just be yourself.” Of course you want be authentic, but you don’t want to present an anxious, sweaty-palmed version of yourself. You want to be the best version of you — calm, confident, and prepared.

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