Being successful in a job interview involves more than giving the right answers to the hiring manager's questions

People always have questions about interview do's and don'ts. In this article, we'll dive into proper job interview etiquette to help you answer questions surrounding everything from how to dress to whether you should accept that drink of water. 

By the time you get to the interview stage, the prospective employer has a good idea of what you bring to the table. They want to meet with you to get a broader understanding of your career achievements.

Prepare yourself for interview success

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a hundred times - you have to spend some time preparing for an interview. This includes researching the company, trying to find out more about the person who will be interviewing you, and practicing responses to common and career-specific interview questions. 

What you may not know is that there is so much more to putting your best foot forward during an interview. There are rules of conduct and behavior that can make or break your chance of getting a job offer. Your resume can be impeccable, and you can present with all the right skills, but bad job interview etiquette can overshadow your qualifications. 

There are three stages to an interview and each step has its own set of rules. Before the interview, you'll need to make some notes. During the interview, it's important to remember things like body language and what you want to say. After the interview, you must remember to follow up with a thank you. 

Job interview etiquette you should follow BEFORE the interview

Here's the “before” etiquette you need to know:

The interview begins before you step into the hiring manager's office

It may surprise you to know that the interview begins when you're first offered a time slot. If human resources, a recruiter, or a hiring manager calls you, they're listening to how you react, including whether you use proper grammar and if you pay attention to the details. If they send you an email, they're paying attention to your ability to respond promptly and professionally. 

There are a few things you should do before the interview: 

  1. Put the date and time in your calendar. Showing up late to the interview is not acceptable. In fact, you should plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early

  2. Make a note of the name of the person who's interviewing you. This allows you to present yourself properly to the Receptionist. It isn't going to bode well for you to walk in the door and say that you have an interview without being able to give the name of the person you're meeting. Also, you should look the interviewer up on LinkedIn or the company's website to learn more about who they are

  3. Write down the address and phone number. Life happens, and you may need to contact them to reschedule

Know thy enemy

At the bare minimum, you should take a gander at the company's website and LinkedIn page. Try to find out if there are any major projects coming down the pipeline. Check out the interviewer's information, too. It's especially important to know whether they're personally involved in any critical happenings. You don't want to look like a stalker, but bringing up something that you've learned during your research can let the hiring manager know how interested you are in the position. 

Practice answering interview questions

It doesn't matter if your interview is being held over the phone, via some sort of video conferencing platform, or in person; you know that you'll be asked interview questions like: 

  • “Why are you leaving your current role?” 

  • “What is your greatest strength?” 

  • “Why should we hire you?” 

Look in the mirror to practice your responses or do a mock interview with a friend or family member. It's a role-playing exercise that helps to boost confidence. 

Choose the right wardrobe

There are generally two choices in attire - business casual or professional, depending on the role to which you're applying. 

Business Casual: This can include khaki pants, nice trousers, or a fingertip-length skirt. You'll pair that with a nice blouse or button-down shirt and dress shoes. 

Professional: When you think of professional clothes, the first word that should pop into your head is suit. A nice, neutral-colored pantsuit is appropriate. You can add a pop of color with your shoes and the blouse or button-down shirt you wear under the jacket. Just make sure that the shoes and top match. (Hint: neutral colors are black, blue, gray, and brown).

Job interview etiquette you should follow DURING the interview

Now that you're ready to walk into the interviewer's office, what are some things you need to know? The greeting, your body language/nonverbal cues, and how you respond to questions are heavily judged during your interview. 

The best way to greet your interviewer

When it's your turn to sit in the hot seat, the hiring manager will often reach out their hand to shake yours. Don't kung fu grip the interviewer's hand, but shake it firmly enough that they get the idea that you're not only confident but also professional. After you walk into their office, wait until they offer you a seat before you sit down. If they ask whether you want something to drink, go ahead and accept with a cheerful “thank you, that'd be great” response. 

Yes, you need to bring copies of your resume

A common question that interviewees ask is whether having extra resume copies on hand is necessary. The answer is, yes! The hiring manager probably won't need it because they will have the one you sent to the company when you applied. However, you could meet with other people during your interview who have never seen your resume. Wouldn't it be great to have a copy to give them? Even if no one at the company needs it, having it available shows that you're prepared for any eventuality. 

How to make body language work for you

Here's is an acronym you need to memorize: SOLER.

  • S stands for “face the interviewer Squarely:” In other words, sit exactly opposite of him or her. It'll improve eye contact and make you appear more professional
  • O stands for “adopt an Open posture:” If you sit in a chair with your arms crossed over your chest, it puts up a non-verbal barrier. Avoid folding your hands in your lap, too, as this conveys shyness or a lack of confidence
  • L stands for “Lean toward the interviewer:” When you lean forward, you project a sense of understanding and interest. Leaning back could send a signal that you're disinterested
  • E stands for “maintain Eye contact:” This doesn't mean that you should bore a hole into the interviewer's brain! It simply means that you should make frequent eye contact. 
  • R stands for “Relax:” It is okay to be nervous, but you don't want your nerves to take over. This is why preparation before the interview is so important

Avoid participating in a question-and-answer session

An interview is supposed to be a mutual exchange of information - a conversation. You are interviewing the company just like the company is interviewing you. The best way to facilitate this open environment of communication is to have some questions of your own prepared. You don't even have to wait until the end when the hiring manager will ask if you have questions. Sprinkle them throughout the interview. 

Hiring managers don't like having interviewees that fail to participate in the interview. Asking questions shows your interest in the role and will help to make you memorable. 

Job interview etiquette you should follow AFTER the interview

There have been instances where a hiring manager had to choose between two candidates and the decision was made simply because one of the candidates sent a thank-you note. The thank you doesn't have to be long. It's really a tool for getting your name back in front of the interviewer under the guise of saying thank you. 

Let the interviewer know it was a pleasure to meet them and learn more about the role and company. Remind him or her how your qualifications are a strong match with what the position requires and thank them for something specific that happened during the meeting (e.g., if you were walked around to meet staff). 

Smash that interview!

The rules of interview etiquette are the same whether this is your first or fiftieth interview. The bottom line is that you want to reinforce the great first impression made with your resume and be memorable. 

Why not set yourself up for success with help from one of TopInterview's expert interview coaches?

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