The interview is the wildcard of the job search process. While applicants have control over their online presence and the information on their resumes, they typically walk into interviews with no knowledge of the questions they’ll be answering, the interview structure or even the type of environment where the interview will take place.
Just because interviews are filled with unknowns, however, does not mean that your success must be left to chance. As an Executive Senior Partner who has matched hundreds of top professionals with companies, I recommend that all applicants hone the following crucial interview traits.

You may have the perfect combination of knowledge and experience, but arriving a few minutes late to an interview means you probably just took yourself out of the running. Punctuality is one of the most important qualities for interview success, so don’t risk losing out on a job due to traffic, bad directions or other transportation issues. Do a practice run at the same time of day that your upcoming interview will take place. If that’s not possible, plan to arrive early and prep yourself at a nearby coffee shop.

Command of Body Language
Do you have a tendency to slouch, keep your arms crossed, play with your hair or twirl your pen? You might think of these as minor, harmless habits, but they can easily be exacerbated during stressful periods – like an interview. Focus on eliminating these habits and instead, use your body language to convey confidence. Practice sitting up straight, leaning slightly forward and making eye contact.

Knowledge About the Company
You can set yourself apart from other interviewees by being knowledgeable about a company’s history, mission, recent successes and inner workings. In addition to reading through the company’s website, search recent news and press releases so you’ll be informed about the latest company developments.

Every interview is slightly different, but the same standard questions tend to come up over and over again. According to Forbes, these rank as the most frequently asked questions:

• What are your strengths/weaknesses?
• Why do you want to work for this company?
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years/10 years?

Practice responding to these and other common questions in advance. When it’s time to sit down in front of an interviewer, you’ll be ready to deliver concise, clear answers.

Listening Skills
The problem with rehearsing answers in advance is that you might be thrown off guard when you’re given a question that you didn’t anticipate. The solution? Hone one of the most important interview qualities – the ability to listen. A good tip for listening is to take your time after you hear a question. You don’t have to immediately launch into your answer as soon as the words have left the interviewer’s mouth. Take a moment to gather your ideas before you share them and you’ll offer a more thoughtful response.

What other interview skills have helped you land the job? Let us know in the comments below.