Interview butterflies can be conquered with a little preparation and knowledge of what the interview process is all about.

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It’s the night before your big job interview, and the monkey on your back is starting to feel pretty heavy. You start thinking of all the things that could go wrong. “What if I say the wrong thing? What if my mind goes blank? What if I start to sweat?”

It can be a stressful process, but you’re not alone in feeling these anxieties. To overcome them, you have to understand what they mean and that they can be controlled. But most of all, interview butterflies can be conquered with a little preparation and knowledge of what the interview process is all about.

Nerves are good. Being nervous before an interview is not just natural, it’s actually a positive sign. It shows that this job matters to you. Many of the world’s top performers have regular bouts of stage fright just before their cues. But the best ones learn to accept it and to use that nervous energy to their advantage.

Don’t fear a little silence. Those moments that occur after a question is asked and before you begin to speak can sometimes seem like an eternity. But while your brain is racing to find an answer, the interviewer will hardly notice. If the question is open-ended, the interviewer will understand and expect that you need a couple of seconds to respond. And if you feel your thoughts going off the rails, it’s perfectly OK to say, “Actually, let me rephrase that,” and reframe your answer.

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Have anecdotes at the ready. One way to avoid these pauses in the first place is to have five or six work anecdotes at the ready. Hiring managers want to hear about your accomplishments more than your potential. In the hours before your meeting, be ready to describe a difficult situation you solved, a new idea you had that saved a former employer money or a situation in which you demonstrated leadership.

Practice with a friend. Preferably, pick a friend who is not afraid to give you some constructive advice, such as, “No, I really didn’t follow that last part,” or “You’re talking way too fast.” You might be amazed to see how many distracting quirks in your speech patterns can be nipped in the bud with a little critical feedback in a neutral, “mock interview” setting.

The interviewer is on your side. Always remember: Interviewers are not your adversaries. They are not looking for flaws on which they can pounce. They asked you for an interview because they want to hire you. They’re not enjoying the process any more than you are and would love to wrap it up with a perfect interview. So if there are any awkward moments, just know that interviewers are rooting for you, even when they ask those old chestnuts, such as “What’s your greatest weakness?”

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at