Job interviews are nerve-wracking, no matter how many or how few you have participated in.  It is your one shot to impress your potential employer and help them see that you would be a good fit for their organization and you don’t want to mess it up. So, how does a job candidate go about this exactly?shield-1020318_1280

You could read countless career-advice blogs, magazine articles or books, but we wanted to find out from real business leaders what one thing a job candidate can do to stand out in an interview. So we asked some of the smartest people we know, our clients. We also asked some of the leaders within our own organization to weigh in. We ended up with some common themes.

Being on time for an interview is critical. Robert Brockbank, owner of B&S Painting Inc. listed that as his number one thing a job candidate can do to stand out. Justin Rowley, VP of Risk at A Plus Benefits agreed, but said it is important to a job candidate not to show up too early either. Showing up 15 minutes or more before an interview sends a negat8ve message instead of a positive message.

Being on time isn’t the only first impression that is important. Dressing appropriately, looking the interviewer in the eye and following basic instructions (did they show up when and where they were asked to, did they bring any documents you requested, etc.) are also important to Rhonda Porter, owner of Nutrition West. This can all take place within the first few minutes of meeting, before you even answer any interview questions.

In most interviews, the employer will ask a number of questions designed to help understand what kind of an employee you have been in the past, so they can determine if that is the type of employee that would fit the open position. What kinds of things are employers looking to hear? Alice Johnson with Duane’s Auto Wrecking wants to hear that the job candidate is willing to learn and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Chuck Travlelstead, owner of Wing Pawn is also looking for a history of a strong work ethic. When answering questions, Mehana Curie, Payroll Manager with A Plus Benefits , wants job candidates to provide specific examples. This helps her to learn more about the candidate’s capabilities.

Many of the leaders at A Plus Benefits emphasized the importance of the job candidate demonstrating he or she has some knowledge about the company. Jake Lunt, COO of A Plus Benefits said job candidates should take the time to review the company website, learn something about competitors, and determine if he or she is already connected to any of the employees on LinkedIn. If so, reach out to those employees to find out what working at the company is really like.

Being familiar with the job descriptions and how you would fit within the organization is also important. Amber Hunter, Director of Employee Performance at A Plus Benefits suggests that job candidates be prepared to explain how their education and experience fit with the position and also admit where they may need additional training.

Personality matters as well. Tiffany Bundy, Payroll Operations Manager at A Plus Benefits wants get the impression that you are a positive person. If your previous employer wasn’t a good fit, it is ok to be honest about it, but spending time in an interview listing only the flaws in your previous employers and co-workers, sends a bad impression. Also, if you make a mistake, lose your words or stumble she wants to see you be able to laugh it off and move forward. She also wants to hear that you are passionate about the kind of work you will be doing.

Follow-up was mentioned by several of the leaders, including Jacob Hoehne, owner of Issimo Productions. Steve Anderson, VP of Benefits at A Plus Benefits said he appreciates receiving a follow-up email from a job candidate after an interview. It shows that the candidate was really interested in the position and the company.

The next time you are headed in for an interview take these pieces of advice into consideration. It just might just give you a leg up on your competition.