Have your questions ready, too. Just before the end of your meeting, you'll be asked if you have any questions about the job or the company. Count on this. It comes up at the end of virtually every job interview, yet I'm stunned by the number of times I've gotten a feeble response like "no, I can't think of anything." I almost always scratch that person off my list immediately, because I can't imagine how a person would let such a no-brainer opportunity slip away. They know the question is coming, right? That's why I tell people to be armed with at least one thoughtful question going into each interview, even if she or he already knows the answer. The question doesn't have to be too complex or revealing, but it should demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of the dynamics of the firm. That said, be sure to avoid asking questions relating to the company's retirement plan, vacation policy, or dress code. Asking about these things in a preliminary interview will make it appear that you're more interested in the benefits than the job itself. Wait until you get the job to pursue this line.
Some additional pointers:
• Decline any offers for tea or coffee before your interview. You don't want to be juggling hot liquid, a purse, and a résumé when your prospective boss reaches out to shake your hand. (Plus, if you drink too much coffee, you might have to suffer through the interview in discomfort, or excuse yourself midmeeting to use the restroom—not the best move if you can avoid it.)
• Leave your coat and any excess baggage with the receptionist, if possible. Carrying all that stuff with you into the meeting will make you appear disorganized.
• Avoid using qualifiers such as like, maybe, you know . . . and ugh! They tend to make employers cringe. (At least, they tend to make me cringe.)
• Don't make the interviewer do all the work. Ideally, I like it when a candidate does about 80 percent of the talking to my 20 percent. If I have to carry any more of the conversation, I start to think I'll always have to be drawing information out of this person.
• Be mindful of the interviewer's time. Even if things are going well, don't overstay your welcome by continuing to chat. Of course, you don't want to keep looking at your watch or putting it out that you have someplace else to be, but you can often get a good read on this with a simple statement such as "you must be terribly busy. I don't want to take up too much of your afternoon."
• Be sure to thank your interviewer for the opportunity, whether or not the meeting went well. And remember, a follow-up thank-you note is always appropriate.