You arrive just in time. Powdering your nose with one hand as you fix your hair with the other, you enter the office one minute before your interview is scheduled to start.
"Hello, I'm here to see ... um ... I forgot his name," you mumble.
"Mr. Brown? Yes, he's expecting you. Have a seat," replies the secretary.
Relieved to have an extra few minutes, you Google the company on your phone to learn more about it before Mr. Brown calls for you. Because you're nervous, your hands are perspiring. But you have nowhere to wipe them.
You've made a poor impression before the interview even begins. You didn't arrive early and were still getting ready while walking in the door. You didn't know the name of your interviewer and waited until the last minute to research the company. Shaking your clammy hand, Mr. Brown could sense your anxiety.
The job-hunting process can be a tedious one. But once you've gotten past the initial hurdles of applying and been selected for an interview, the ball is in your court. By adhering to the following guidelines, you will leave your interview resting assured you stood out among a pool of comparable candidates.
*Do Your Research
Find out everything you can about a company before an interview. What is its history? From where does it make most of its profit? Has it ever been in the news? If so, for what? Make sure you understand the company's culture and its mission.
"Use what you learn to highlight the detailed reasons you want the job and why your background makes you a perfect fit for the company," notes Heather Huhman on the website Glassdoor, a source for inside information about jobs and companies.
*Prepare Answers to Interview Questions in Advance
Though there is always a possibility the interviewer will ask you preposterous questions -- for example, "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?" -- most of the time they are predictable, so there is no excuse to not be ready with answers. Be familiar with the job description and show, don't tell, how your skills align with it. Illustrate them through stories and experience.
According to Huhman, here are common questions you can expect to be asked:
--Tell me about yourself.
--Why do you want to work here?
--What is your greatest strength?
--What is your greatest weakness?
--Where do you see yourself in five years? What about in 10 years?
--How do you handle conflict?
--Is there anything you want to ask me?
Avoid stale answers. Don't disguise your strengths as weaknesses, e.g., "I am a perfectionist," Huhman says. "Interviewers know this is a cop-out." She also advises steering clear of touting your communication skills as your greatest strength.
The surefire way to conclude an interview on a sour note is to ask the interviewer about the salary or how much vacation time is provided, according to an article by Dr. Stephanie Sarkis on the Psychology Today website.
*Dress to Impress
"Men should wear a suit and tie, and women should wear an interview-appropriate blouse and skirt or pants," recommends Jennifer Parris, a writer for Mashable, a website with news about technology and social media. "For both men and women, clean hands and fingernails are crucial. And you should keep jewelry and fragrance to a minimum."
*Carry Yourself With Confidence
Your interviewer could be watching you from the moment you arrive in the parking lot. Don't use your phone in any capacity while walking into the building, Sarkis warns. And once the interview has begun, be mindful that your posture is upright and you avoid filler words, Parris counsels. Words such as "like" and "um" convey incompetence, so if you are stumped by something the interviewer asks, buy yourself time by saying "that's a great question" before launching into your answer.
Even if the interviewer doesn't offer her hand, "the protocol is to extend yours anyway," Parris says. "And if your nerves have gotten the best of you (leaving your hand a swampy, moist mess), keep a tissue in your pocket to wipe it off before walking into the interview."
Mail your interviewer a thank-you note the following day. Yes, a written one, not an email. "Email thank yous just look lazy," Sarkis says. "And lazy is not the impression you want to give the interviewer(s)."
In your note, thank the interviewer for his time and include something memorable -- an idea you had or a funny story you shared -- and express once more how much you would like to work for the company. This small act of gratitude might be what sets you apart from the candidate who emailed a thank-you note while on the elevator leaving the interview.
Remember that you were chosen for the interview because whoever is doing the hiring saw potential in you. By following these guidelines, you can interview with confidence, and whether or not you get the job, at least you will know you gave it your best.