You don’t need to be the best. Just be yourself.

As Senior UI/UX Designer at Edenspiekermann and in my past roles, I’ve met with many candidates interviewing for various agency and product roles.

When it comes to interviewing, I’ve seen it all — a designer who shows up without a portfolio and asks to borrow your laptop, a developer who’s stumped when you ask about their Github repos, people who randomly sent their resumes to dozens of companies and hoped one would call back (which is really obvious to when we find out you’re clueless about us).

Everybody listen: if you were invited to interview, the job is yours to lose.

I didn’t understand this until I began interviewing candidates myself, but if you were invited to an interview, there’s something about what we’ve seen that has piqued our interest. We’re interviewing to validate qualifications and to see if we’d work well together. It isn’t fun to take time out of your schedule on top of your work responsibilities and deadlines to interview dozens of people, and it isn’t fun to tell someone they didn’t get the job. We want you to succeed. We want to hire you.

There are many factors to an interview, like being well-prepared, having a solid portfolio or code repository, being able to talk through your process, share some of your successes and failures, etc. Aside from this, there are three main points I’d like to share that make a world of a difference that have nothing to do with your qualifications or the actual work.

1. Bring your passion

Remember how excited you were in your first year of design school? Or on the launch date of your first big web project? Do your best to channel that. Let’s talk about your favorite apps or sites. That new branding that just came out? Let’s critique it. Have an opinion. Show your excitement. Make it clear that you want to do awesome work, and that you’re going to bring some of that passion to the table. Of course, not every day is sunshine and rainbows—but the interview is your chance to let that passion shine through.

2. Learn a little (or a lot) about the company

When I interviewed at Espi, I learned as much as I possibly could about the company. I read up on the ways they worked (agile project management, lean branding), studied Erik’s books (it helped I was already a big fan), watched a bunch of talks that our designers and developers had done at conferences, the list goes on... I felt like an actor preparing for a big role. Basically lived and breathed it for weeks coming up to the interview. It worked out well. I got the job. It felt like I was already part of the team—I was thrilled.

Figure out who’s who. Follow some team members on Twitter. Take a peek at their Github repos. Read the blogs. Look people up on Linkedin (with privacy on of course). Review their past projects. All of the information is out there to give you the edge. So go do some research.

To be interesting, be interested. — Unknown

3. Just be yourself

This one is so important. When interviewing candidates for a position this past year, we were deciding between a handful of people. All of them were talented and bright. Some of them lacked the exact experience we needed, and some spoke eloquently about building digital products. Some wore suits, some wore floral dresses. We weren’t looking for the smartest, most talented person in the room—we were ok with a learning curve—it comes with the territory of joining a new team. We didn’t expect anyone to be perfect.

The deciding factor was authenticity. This person spoke about their favorite apps and sites, their hobbies, their career path to date and where they saw their career going. They seemed comfortable with themselves, interested, willing to learn, and best of all, excited about what their future might look like after joining our team.

By the end of the interview, it felt like we’d spoken with a friend. It was an easy choice to make. After all, the best interview doesn’t feel like an interview at all.

This quote is so overdone, but it holds a lot of truth:

Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken. —Unknown

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— 
Frank is a Product Designer at Headspace. He was previously at Edenspiekermann and co-founded Bureau.

You can follow him on Twitter.