Whether you’re striving for a career change, going for a promotion, or taking on your first job, one of the most crucial steps in the process is getting through that grueling interview process.

Traditionally, potential employees were invited to an office for a face-to-face meeting. Today, in a competitive environment where so many people are looking for work, there are often more steps involved. It’s not uncommon to be asked to do a phone or Skype interview before being asked to meet in person. It’s also increasingly common to be faced with a panel of interviewers who take turns asking questions.

Since even the most straightforward of circumstances can be intimidating, we’ve come up with five suggestions for being prepared and acing your next interview!

Dress to Impress

You want to feel confident in your appearance and you want to impress your potential employer. Take some time to plan what you will wear. If you plan to wear a dress or skirt, decide whether pantyhose is appropriate and make sure the ones you have don’t have a run.

It can also help to invest in a few nice pieces that you can mix and match for interviews in order to keep things fresh.

Put Your Phone Away

We love our smartphones but having any sort of distraction during an interview is absolutely inappropriate and will likely hurt your chances of being hired.  While you are waiting to be called in, turn your phone off and safely tuck it away.

Research the Company

One of the easiest ways to impress interviewers is to have done some research about the company.  Let them know  you have taken a real interest in their work – this can give you an edge over someone who just wants a paycheck. If possible, review the responsibilities associated with the role you’ve applied for and highlight the traits you possess that will most meet their needs.

Practice Makes Perfect

Most people aren’t born with rock star interview skills.  The best candidates seem relaxed but confident and are able to provide clear, relevant answers to questions.  One suggestion is to spend some time really looking at your resume and pick out the qualities that are most important for this particular job.

It is also beneficial to enlist the help of a friend who will help you work through some mock interviews using common interview questions.  Pay attention to any questions that leave you flustered and work on making your responses sound natural.

Leave a Good Impression

People will often remember you by how you parted ways.  If your departure is awkward or rushed, they may question the entire interview.  When preparing to leave, thank them for their time and consideration, ask what the next steps will be and reiterate how interested you are in the position by listing the three best reasons why you should be hired.

Going through an interview can be an extremely daunting task but, with a little effort and planning, you will make a lasting impression.