With Americans fearful of a recession, the competition for $100K+ jobs has become more intense than it has been in years. In this environment, it’s more important than ever for jobseekers to be well-prepared for job interviews — particularly when they are seeking their first $100K+ job. To help candidates break the $100K+ barrier, here are five tips to help you in the interview process:

1. Brand yourself.

To be a $100k+ manager or executive, you must have a brand — a one-sentence or one-phrase way to powerfully describe yourself in your interview. Don’t just tell the person where you worked and what your responsibilities were. Instead, tell them you’re a ‘sales turnaround expert’ who’s ‘tough-minded’ and ‘thrives under pressure.’ That’s the kind of meaty characterization that recruiters use in pitching candidates to employers, and it’s how you need to present yourself in the big interview.

2. Know the employer.

One of the biggest differences between the candidate who gets the $100k+ job and the one stuck forever in five figures is doing your homework before the interview. If you can reference and react intelligently to what journalists, investment analysts and others have said and written about your potential employer, you present yourself as a leader who thinks strategically — not a worker bee who waits around to be handed a new task.

3. Dress for the part.

Dress for the side of the $100K salary line you want to be on. For example, high-powered male executives are far more likely to wear French cuffs than sub-$100K managers. So add a couple of new shirts and some nice cufflinks to your wardrobe – at least for your job interviews. Female executives, meanwhile, tend to dress more conservatively as they move up the corporate ladder – favoring high-end pantsuits over skirts, cardigans and other early-career options.

4. Don’t ramble — be concise.

Answer questions thoroughly, but then stop. If you feel the need to continue talking simply because the interviewer hasn’t asked the next question, you’ll come off as weak and indecisive — not a leader. Some interviewers like to put you in awkward situations just to see how you’ll respond to them. Don’t take the bait; stay in control – especially of what comes out of your mouth.

5. Ask for the job.

If you want to win your first $100K+ job, you need to show mental toughness in your interview – so bring your hard hat, not your pacifier. Bashful people don’t become $100K+ executives. Do you want the job? Then ask for it directly. Employers respect assertiveness, particularly for leadership positions.

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