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So, you’ve got an upcoming job interview. Congratulations!
But did you know that hiring managers determine whether a candidate is hireable or not within the first 90 seconds of an interview?
Yep, having the skills and competence is not enough to land the job of your dreams. It’s also about your interview manners.
And because you never get a second chance to make a first impression, I’ll share 15 interview etiquette tips that could increase your odds of success.
But would it hurt if we start with the interview etiquette definition? Certainly not.
What is Job Interview Etiquette?
Interview etiquette can be summarized as the appropriate manners and body language for an interview.
A job interview places you under scrutiny. The interviewer will actively assess how you feel about yourself (body language), your social skills, and how you treat people (regardless of their class).
By acquainting yourself with and practicing interview manners, you can make the most of your chance to impress a prospective employer.
Think about it:
How would you feel if someone showed up late to an interview with you, was discourteous, or sent a sloppy thank-you note? You’d probably think of those candidates as unprofessional and disinterested and cross them off your list.
Keep reading to learn how you can stay on top of proper interview manners and increase your odds of success.
Top 15 Rules for Job Interview Etiquette
The following are the dos and dont’s of job interview etiquette:
- Do your homework
- Mind your body language
- Clean your social media
- Dress for success
- Answer questions with confidence
- Shake hands like a seasoned negotiator
- Don’t interrupt the interview
- Be punctual but not too early
- Ask thoughtful questions
- Send a thank-you note
- Be polite to everyone at the company
- Bring copies of your resume and portfolio materials
- Know what not to say
- Turn off your phone
- Take notes during the appointment
1. Do your homework
There’s nothing worse than getting stumped by a question about the company. Enter a critical interview etiquette rule: conducting thorough research.
A great starting point is to research the company. It’s not just about what they do. Learn who they are, how they started, how they function, and their competitors.
Best sources include review sites, online news articles, and the organization’s website and social media feed.
- Look beyond the interviewer’s name
It pays to know something about your interviewer, with learning their name and how to pronounce it correctly being a significant starting point. It shows that you’ve done your homework ahead of time. Plus, you can personalize your answers and anecdotes with the interviewer’s name.
Go online and look at the company’s website to see who will be interviewing you. Alternatively, contact the receptionist and ask for your interviewer’s name.
Having more information than just a name can help you build rapport before the interview begins. Peruse your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, published articles, and the company’s “About Us” page and learn about their accomplishments, interests, and possibly shared experiences.
2. Mind your body language
A Business to Community report provides insight into the top nonverbal pet peeves for hiring managers:
- Being too fashionable or trendy (70%)
- Failure to make eye contact (67%)
- Attire and how the candidate walks into the interview room (55%)
- Weak handshake (26%)
- Crossing arms over the chest (21%)
From the above figures, you can infer that interview etiquette isn’t just about your words but also how you present yourself.
Taking a few deep breaths before entering the interview room will help you calm down, improve concentration and reduce anxiety.
Nothing screams confidence like good posture. Walk and sit upright with your chin parallel to the ground. Assume an open posture by relaxing your hands on the table or your lap and keeping your feet flat on the floor.
When answering questions, keep a smile on your face. It conveys a positive attitude, and it’s more pleasant for everyone involved. But don’t overdo it — else, it’ll betray your nervousness.
Similarly, maintain eye contact with the interviewer for about 60-70 percent of the time you’re talking. Don’t stare too hard or look away too quickly, though.
Limit nervous habits, including hair twirling, nail-biting, and foot tapping. They are distracting — if not annoying.
3. Clean your social media
A survey by The Manifest found that 90% of employers review candidates’ social media activities before hiring. And 80% of them admitted turning down a candidate based on their social posts.
So, you’ll want to check if your online profiles are professional and appropriate beforehand. That will mean hiding or deleting inappropriate content—from immature or unprofessional posts to racist or sexist comments to photos of you doing anything illegal.
Worried about a recruiter rejecting you based on your political views? Note that it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, religion, and other protected characteristics. Learn more here.
4. Dress for success
The right combination of colors, style, and accessories can give you the edge over other candidates.
Don’t underdress. Even if the company has a casual dress code, treat the appointment with formality. Your best bet is a business outfit—neat and well-tailored.
Also, avoid anything too revealing or overly trendy; you want your qualifications to stand out rather than your clothing choices.
Polished leather shoes work better than rubber-soled ones because they add class to your look. Overly scuffed leather shoes are less professional than freshly shined ones. Steer clear of jingling jewelry or flashy clothing.
Typically, women can do with light perfumes that flatter their natural scent. Men tend toward muskier smells that are more masculine and pheromone-based. But too much of either choice can be distracting during an interview.
If unsure of how formally you should dress, contact human resources and ask what’s appropriate for interviews in the respective department.
Check out this report on how female applicants’ outfits influence the interviewer’s perceptions and hiring decisions for managerial roles.
5. Answer questions with confidence
You’ll likely ramble when nervous and motivated to say as much as possible. But that could make you sound timid and inarticulate. That’s why you should practice interview questions way in advance.
Typical questions include “Why are you interested in working here?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” But it’s your job to prepare answers to less standard questions that could throw you off guard.
However, don’t memorize your responses — they should sound natural.
It’s okay to take a few seconds to think about your answers. But try not to ramble on too long unless requested to expound.
Never falsify information. If a particular area of interest is not among your strengths, emphasize your willingness to learn (but only if you mean it).
6. Shake hands like a seasoned negotiator
Offer your interviewer a firm handshake. It communicates poise and self-assurance and signifies respect.
A limp and lifeless handshake (the infamous “dead fish” handshake), on the other hand, is off-putting. But please don’t pump the interviewer’s hand up and down aggressively or squeeze it too hard.
A handshake coupled with a smile and eye contact exudes confidence and friendliness. Better yet, address the interviewer by name, combining a title like Mr., Ms., or Dr and their last name.
Conventionally, a female interviewer should extend the handshake first. Greet the highest-level representative first if you’re interviewing with a panel.
You can always follow up with a bit of banter if the situation calls for it. That helps ease any tension and build rapport with your new connection.
Proper interview etiquette dictates that you wait until the interviewer indicates your seat. Else, ask permission to sit.
7. Don’t interrupt the interviewer
Proper Interview etiquette is also about showing respect for the interviewer. Interrupting them is disrespectful and will negatively impact your chances with the role.
Before you answer their question or start asking one of your own, wait for the interviewer to finish talking. You can always seek clarifications later.
8. Be punctual, but not too early
Showing up late is one of the biggest job interview blunders. It doesn’t reflect well on your time management skills and could cost you the job.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview site; traffic, weather conditions, or other unforeseen problems could slow you down. If an emergency occurs and you’re running late, notify the interviewer before the scheduled interview time. That’s better than arriving late without prior communication.
But remember that showing up too early can be just as bad as showing up late. An interviewer may feel pressured if you’ve been waiting long for them, not to mention you’d feel unwelcome when kept waiting.
A good rule of thumb is to arrive at the reception 10-20 minutes before the interview. Else, wait in your car or stroll around the block.
Once you’re in the office, please introduce yourself to the receptionist and request them to alert you when your interviewer is ready for you. If there’s no sign of life around, knock on an office door and politely ask if they’re expecting you.
9. Ask thoughtful questions
An interview isn’t just about the employer assessing you —it’s also your opportunity to evaluate whether the job and company match your skills and career goals.
But the line between asking insightful questions and sounding like a clueless beginner can be tough to walk.
For example, questions about what the company does indicate you didn’t do your homework. And asking how soon you can qualify for a raise or promotion will undoubtedly raise eyebrows.
Instead, ask about the company culture and how they work together as a team. Inquire about employee assessment procedures and the kind of problems the organization expects you to solve in the role.
10. Send a thank-you note
Send yours within 24 hours of your interview while the experience is still fresh in the interviewer’s mind. It’s an excellent way to reiterate your interest in the job and keep your candidacy fresh in the interviewer’s memory.
You can email or mail the thank-you note, depending on the company’s protocol or what’s most appropriate to your relationship with the hiring manager. An email will reach your interviewer sooner, but a handwritten note could be more memorable.
You’re not writing a novel here —a few sentences are enough to convey your gratitude.
Mention something unique discussed in the interview. You could also include a share more information about your qualifications or a shared interest—this also helps personalize your message.
For a panel interview, send each interviewer a custom note.
11. Be polite to everyone at the company
Ignore this job interview etiquette rule at your own risk.
A warm smile, pleasant greeting, and exchange of names could compel the staff to say positive things about you—from how you arrived on time and well dressed to how friendly and polite you were. And those are all admirable qualities of an interviewee that could factor in the final hiring decisions.
Bottom line: don’t be the guy that will make the receptionist consider quitting if you were hired.
12. Bring extra copies of your resume and portfolio materials
Don’t assume that the interviewer has a copy of your resume — even if they do, it’s likely to be buried in their pile of applicants’ resumes.
It’s, therefore, a good idea to bring multiple copies of your resume and any other portfolio materials so that you can share them with anyone who needs them during the interview. Also, if you have any portfolio materials or samples (especially if they’re not readily available online), bring those too.
Even if the interviewer has already read your resume, you can always ask whether they need you to walk them through any part of it.
13. Know what not to say
While the interviewer wants to know you better and assess if your personality matches the position, discussing personal, family, or relationship issues is inappropriate and unprofessional.
I understand it’s tempting to share some juicy anecdotes about your previous bosses or coworkers. But while it can be satisfying to bash someone who mistreated you at work, that could reflect poorly on you.
Questions about your marital status, family plans, religion, political views (and other topics of similarly personal nature) shouldn’t come up during an interview. If the hiring manager asks one of these questions, politely decline to answer.
14. Turn off your phone
Don’t be the candidate who texts or picks calls during an interview— it’s outright disrespectful to the interviewer, not to mention how distracting it can be. It also communicates that you have more important things to attend to than the job interview.
Whether you expect an important call or think you can slip your phone out of your bag quickly and discreetly, it’s not worth the risk.
So, always switch off your phone before entering an interview room.
15. Take notes during the appointment
It’s acceptable to take notes during an interview. It implies you’re paying attention and are invested in the conversation. And what’s more, it gives you something to do with your hands rather than fidgeting.
But there’s a right and wrong way to take notes during an interview.
Your notes should be key points—not a word-for-word transcription of the interviewer’s statements. Also, write down any follow-up questions or topics of interest that might stem from the conversation. And more importantly, balance note-taking and paying attention to the interviewer.
Use a plain notebook or small pad of paper rather than your phone or tablet. The latter can be distracting, let alone the interviewer wondering whether you’re taking notes or scrolling through social media.
Mastering appropriate manners and body language for an interview is central to becoming a successful young professional.
But it doesn’t just boil down to what you say and how you say it. How you conduct yourself during the interview also plays a critical role in hiring managers’ impressions of you.
So keep these job interview etiquette tips in mind, and you’ll be one step closer to landing your dream job!
Happy job hunting!