If “lean and mean” meant something in the work force two years ago, that motto has ascended to near mantra status by now. Clearly--whether by choice or circumstance--companies are trying to get the job done with fewer employees. One result: Managers want to hire only those candidates who are exceptionally well organized. There is no place for the employee who, like one of Washington Irving’s characters, “mounted his horse, and rode off in all directions.”

Here are ten ways you can communicate during an interview that you demonstrate structure (not rigidity, but beneficial order) in your everyday habits:

1. Arrive on time. This activity belongs at the top of the list, because tardiness would kill your other efforts to communicate orderliness. Your interviewer doesn’t care how heavy traffic was, whether your car experienced engine trouble, or whether you got a last minute phone call you had to take. Impressive job applicants allow enough leeway to compensate for potential interruptions.

2. Take writing materials with you. Mention to your interviewer, “I’d like to jot down some key points as we talk, so I will be sure to understand them now and remember them later.”

3. Have your calendar handy. The interviewer might ask, “When can we schedule you to come back and talk with another one of our staff members?” You’ll appear unsystematic if you respond, “Well, my calendar is back in my office, so I’ll call you to select a date.”

4. Arrange all your papers in folders, so you can retrieve them easily. Suppose the interviewer asks, “Did you bring any letters of endorsement with you?” That’s no time to spend a couple of minutes shuffling through your pages haphazardly, muttering “They are in here somewhere.”

5. Respond to questions with a clear organizational pattern. Question: “What jobs have you held since college?” Answer: “First, I sold cars for Hardman Buick for four years. Second, I served as sales manager there for six years. Third and most recently, I became district sales manager for General Motors.”

6. Avoid rambling away from the subject. Sure, you can switch topics, yet be sure you have answered the prior question thoroughly, and that you offer an identifiable transition: “Now that we have talked about your expectations for this position. . . .”

7. Turn off your cell phone, pager, and beeper. Automatically, top-level professionals do that whenever they enter an appointment or meeting. You want to indicate that this step of courtesy is on your checklist without fail.

8. Indicate that you have researched the company thoroughly: “In reading through your Annual Report on your Web site, I noticed that. . . .”

9. Don’t forget to bring anything you were required to bring. You could disqualify yourself quickly by moaning, “My resume? Oh darn, I revised it last night, but forgot to print it out.” Then what else would you forget after you were hired?

10. As the interview winds down, summarize the conversation: “From what I understand, then, there are three more steps involved: You will check my references, I will come back on the 22nd at 2:00 to meet with the other vice president, and there is one more form that I need to complete at the Personnel Office. Am I right on this?”