According to the latest official figures, the U.S. unemployment rate is at 4.8 percent as of January. The good news is that many companies in many different markets are hiring and looking for the best candidates.

Getting the interview is the hardest part for the unemployed. At least that’s how it should be. For many, the toughest part between battling unemployment and earning that first paycheck from the new job is mastering the interview process.

Like it or not, the interview can make or break you before you answer one question. There are employers who monitor confidence the minute they lay eyes on you. Think about it: How many of your old bosses and the company’s best workers lack confidence?

Actor Jack Palance once did an old commercial for Skin Bracer aftershave. In the commercial, he said, "Confidence is very sexy. Don’t you think?" For companies looking to hire qualified candidates, a good resume and cover letter can take a candidate a long way, but that candidate’s confidence before, during and after the interview can be the tipping point in a potentially close hiring race.

While interviewing, nerves naturally can take over. One way to suppress those nerves and impress those interviewing you is to turn the tables on your interview. Tell yourself that this is your interview, so own it. Take control of yourself, and, more importantly, take control of those prepared to ask you questions.

Here are three things to focus on as you prepare for your next interview. Remember, confidence is key. Sexy, even, as Palance would say.

Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact

Nonverbal cues are huge in an interview. There is nothing more confident than someone who can hold a conversation while looking each and every interviewer in the eye.

There are times where 10 people are in the room, and while only one gives you a question, all 10 expect you to answer as if they all asked the question. This is where you can extend your answer and give each person in the room the attention they deserve with piercing, focused eye contact.

Interviewers and hiring managers want to feel as if you’re speaking directly to them. Give the people what they want and refuse to let your eyes hit the floor, the ceiling or anything else without a pulse.

Shake a hand, break a hand

Before we go any further, this is a figurative comment. You never literally want to break anyone’s hand while shaking it. A firm handshake, coupled with the aforementioned importance of eye contact, will score big points early in your interview.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a strong handshake “sets the tone and the perception of your abilities.” You have to remember that an interview is your first impression, physically, with a company. You want to show that you’re sure of yourself.

One surefire way not to do that is to have a "limp noodle" handshake. Give a strong grip when shaking the hands of a hiring manager or interviewer.

Women, feel free to catch your male interviewers off-guard with a super-strong handshake. Men, don’t disrespect women with the soft shake, assuming you will hurt her. Your confidence should be felt through your hands. A sturdy grip will instantly paint pictures of your personality and trust.

Answer questions … then ask them

We’ve all been there. After you go through your interview process, a hiring manager asks, "Is there anything you would like to ask us?"Take this opportunity to put the interviewer in the interviewee’s shoes.

Ask everything you can that’s pertinent to not only the position you want, but also the positions you’ll work with. In short, this shows you’re engaged and you’re extremely interested in the company. If you have paper and pen, jot down notes as the interviewers answer your questions.

This is something that will really show your confidence. It also will give the interviewers a good idea of the person to call when a new candidate is in the interviewee’s seat — that will be you.

Confidence. It’s more than an overrated, 10-letter word. It could be the difference between you, the unemployed individual, and you, the qualified individual who landed the job you truly wanted.