Interview Etiquette

Tips to ensure you give a polished interview and stand out from the other candidates

Having good interview etiquette can be the difference between receiving a job offer or not. Statistics show that we are more likely to slip up at the interview stage than at any other point in the job application process.

Having good job interview etiquette is as important as having good table manners, the smallest things can make a huge impact on the overall impression that you leave with people.

Most of the decisions we make about people are based not on what they say, but on our overall impression of them. Some people call this instinct, some call it a gut feeling, often we can’t quite put our finger on what it is but decisions to reject candidates can often occur within the first five minutes of the interview, based on someone's manners, their interview etiquette skills and their
interview attire.

Often your behaviour and
body language is being monitored as soon as you pull into the car park; a staff member can be positioned to observe you coming into the property, so it is wise to know how to conduct yourself from the very start. Interview Etiquette should start as soon as you are on the premises!

Having good job interview etiquette means you can be confident that your overall image is positive. Whilst you may not, on paper, be the front runner for the job, your interview etiquette could just swing it in your favour as a result of your manners and how you behave.

Tips for ensuring good mannerisms and protocol during the interview process:

1. Arrival Time – it is good interview etiquette to arrive 10 minutes before the given time but no earlier. Consider driving to the premises the day before to ensure your give yourself enough time.

2. Use the bathroom before you go into the interview to ensure you look together and so that you won’t need to excuse yourself during the interview. Nerves can play havoc in this department and it is deemed poor job interview etiquette to have to leave the room mid-way through the interview.

3. Knock before entering the meeting room – even when the receptionist has told you it is time to go in.

4. Turn off your mobile phone completely – don’t leave it on vibrate as this can still be heard.

5. Sit only when you have been invited to do so and say “thank you”. Maintain good posture and don’t cross your legs except at the ankles.

6. Make eye contact with all of the interviewers – this is important as it builds trust and helps you connect with people.

7. Dress appropriately and ensure your personal hygiene is clean.

8. Hand your business card to the interviewer – they will then have your details to hand instead of having to refer back to HR files. It also helps the interviewers to remember your name and pronounce it correctly.

9. Firm handshake – we all judge by someone’s handshake; it should be firm but not too strong!

10. Address your interviewer as Mr or Ms. Whilst calling them by their first name is not usually a problem, addressing them formally shows you respect them and we all like to feel respected and important. Use their name at least once during the interview but don’t overuse it as it can sound phoney; make a note of their names as soon as possible so that you don’t forget.

11. Make positive small talk – you will need to respond to conversational gambits, like how your journey was. Respond positively but concisely and avoid stressing any negatives. It is also good to initiate the small talk e.g. commenting favourably on the premises.

12. Judge the degree of formality – your key messages should still be the same but your style should be adapted. A good indication is how the room is set up – across the table is classic negotiation style, across the corner of the table is a more informal conversational colleague style layout, and across open space is the classic friend-to-friend style of open discussion.

13. Let the interviewer completely finish their question – I think most of us are guilty of stepping on the last 2-3 words of someone’s sentence, I know I am. But do try and let them finish, pause for 1-2 seconds and then answer the question. It shows you have good manners and have given the question some thought. This can actually be applied to all of our conversations.

14. Let the interviewer run the interview – even if they take things at a slower pace than you would, otherwise you may fall into rambling mode. Accept periods of silence and don’t feel that you have to fill them.

15. Remember political correctness.

16. Be prepared and organised – take a folder with you so you can take notes and have a short list of questions pre-prepared. It also a good idea to take your CV and, if you have them, references.

17. Do your homework before the interview – find out about the history of the company, the key players and the companies vision statement. When you are asked why you would like the position you can use this knowledge to back up your reasons for wanting to work with the company.

18. Smile – whilst an interview is a serious occasion, you should allow your personality to shine through. People buy people and sub-consciously the interviewers will want to know how you will fit within their team. So be yourself, use movement and gestures so that you appear personable.

19. Avoid asking about the salary in the first interview – unless the interviewer mentions it. Do your research first and find out what the range is for these jobs in your city.

20. Don’t brag or lie – there is a fine line between selling yourself effectively and lying. Most employers will check out your claims and you must to be able to substantiate them.

21. Don’t put down any former employer or colleagues.

22. Give your best even if the job isn’t for you – you may decide early on in the interview that the role isn’t right, but, you should still conduct yourself as if you want the job. Why? Because you never know when you might meet the interviewers again! Never burn your bridges with a company or individual – it’s a small world in most industries.

23. Be professional from the beginning right up to the end – greet the receptionist politely and thank the interviewers individually and by name for their time. Ask them what the next stage of the process is and your final statement should be for them to contact you if there is anything else they would like to know.

25. And of course it goes without saying that you need to prepare for the interview as much as possible.

After the Interview

Your approach to the follow up process can have a major influence on whether you receive the offer of a job and is a really important part to having good interview etiquette. Many women haven’t been let in on this secret, I certainly wasn’t aware of it for many years, but knowing how your behaviour after the interview can affect the outcome can be priceless:

1. Send a hand written interview thank you letter (not an email) the day after your interview. This is one of the most important aspects of interview etiquette and only 10% of candidates do this, so it is an easy way of making a lasting impression.

2. Ensure that your employment references give a positive reflection of you.

3. Do you have a character reference as well? This is different to an employment reference in that it is written by an influential and/or professional person.

4. Ensure you return any calls, emails and requests for further information promptly, even if it is from an administrator – they will be quick to feedback to the hiring manager. Ensure you treat everyone as equals, regardless of their title.

5. It is perfectly acceptable to call the company for some feedback if you have not heard from them; some companies can leave you waiting for a long time. Your goal is to keep the application process moving or receive a decline so that you can move on. It is a fine balance between taking control and being pushy, so here are a few tips:

  • Call the Manager 7 days after you post your thank you note, this should be perfect timing to remind them to do something. If the call goes to voicemail then it’s fine to leave a message.
  • If you have been interviewed by several people then always call the hiring manager first unless otherwise directed.
  • Only attempt 3 times, if you haven’t heard back by then, then you can assume the answer is no.
  • You may also call the manager to ask questions, if you have been invited to do so. In fact, it may be part of your interview evaluation to do so. Only ask 4-5 questions and ensure you have carried out your own research first.

The Second Interview

One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming they are going to be offered the position because they have been invited back for a second interview.

They leave their interview etiquette at home and think it is going to be a walk in the park, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Whilst most of the other candidates will have now been eliminated from the process, this leaves you now competing against the other top two or three. Your job interview etiquette skills are needed now more than ever!

Often the second interview is tougher than the first. This happened to my husband many years ago whilst attending a second interview with an investment house.

He was invited for a chat with one of the key directors and he really was convinced he was going to be offered the job. On his arrival in the boardroom he was not only faced with 3 key personnel but also a buffet lunch which he had to try and navigate whilst answering tough questions which he had not prepared for. Needless to say he wasn't offered the position but he did receive a huge lesson on interview preparation!

So if you are asked back for a second interview, ask for the names of the people who will be present so that you can research them first to give you an insight into their strategies and personalities. You can also ask the hiring or HR manager for some background information.

The most important point to remember is to prepare as well for your second interview as you did for your first by making sure your interview etiquette is flawless! Good Luck!

Other Business Etiquette Skills to learn on this Site:

Interview Thank You Letters

Interview Dress Code

Business Etiquette Introduction

Business Email Etiquette

Business Phone Etiquette

Business Meeting Etiquette

Business Negotiation Tactics

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The Author, Emma Dupont, runs various courses in London during the year.

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