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Job interviews will always be stressful. The stakes are high, and the margin for error is slim. Even so, the formula for success isn’t complicated, according to Patrick Payne, who offered a webinar on the subject in May as part of the Alumni Career Services’ Friday Forum Webinars program, sponsored by the UVA Alumni Association.

One key is to make your answers straightforward, meaningful and simple. “I’ve been part of so many interviews where the candidate thinks that more is better,” says Payne (Col ’97), the director of corporate and executive recruiting at Vail Resorts. However, less is better, Payne says, as long as it quickly makes an impact. “Interviewing is kind of like dating,” he says. “You need to build that connection, and you need to somehow build it quickly.”

Payne’s interviewing webinar has been one of the most popular presentations of the past year, according to Emily Bardeen (Grad ’90), Director of Alumni Career Services and Employer Relations, who echoes his advice to focus on the fundamentals. “It’s really simple,” she says. “Every question in an interview is really asking, ‘Why should I hire you?’ So every answer you give needs to end, implicitly, with, ‘So that’s why you should hire me.’ You should always have three reasons in your head to answer that question, so that you know what to say at any time.”

One of the big myths about the interviewing process, according to Payne, is that the most qualified person gets the job. In reality, a candidate who seems less qualified on paper can set himself apart by acing the interview. The most qualified person doesn’t always present him or herself in a way that shows an interest in the company or the job.

Payne  stresses the importance of researching the company, because it actively conveys your interest in the position. “One of the first questions I ask is, ‘Why did you apply for this role?’” Payne says. “Your answer should show a passion for that role in the company.”

Having a game plan going in will help you project the confidence and presence that distinguish you from other candidates, according to Reed Smollar (Com ’06), a manager in Deloitte Consulting’s federal technology practice.

Smollar, who offered a Friday Forum webinar about interviewing in April, says the most important element of an interview is simply connecting with the person in front of you. “Look him or her in the eye, mirror his or her body language,” he says. “While you are trying to sell yourself based on your qualifications and experience, the interviewer is thinking, ‘Do I want to work with this person, and do I want them on my team?’”

The webinars provide alumni with career, professional and personal development. Since it launched in August 2011, the Friday Forum Webinars program has produced more than 70 presentations on a variety of topics. Recent webinars have focused on developing leadership skills, setting financial goals and negotiating business deals.

“We like them because we think it shows the public that you can do great things with a UVA degree,” Bardeen says. Plans are in the works, she says, to target Alumni Career Services’ web-based resources to the generational needs of alumni and those at different stages of their careers.