Interviewing Skills: Interview Etiquette

Lesson 3: Interview Etiquette


Interview etiquette

Two people shaking hands for an interview

Your qualifications and skills are only a part of what the hiring manager is looking for. Whether you get the job depends largely on how you behave at the interview—what you do, what you say, and how you say it.

From the first time you walk through the door to the handshake on your way out, this lesson will help you learn how to behave in a business setting. Using basic interview etiquette can improve your chances of landing the job.

You'll have to appear professional, confident, and capable. You will be judged not only on your ability to do the job itself, but also on how well you will get along with the people with whom you will be working. The hiring manager watches your communication skills and your manners to predict whether you'll work well with others.

Top 10 tips for interviews

  1. Be on time. If you're going to be late, show that you are respectful of the interviewer's time and call to say when you'll be arriving.
  2. Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, both at the beginning of the interview and again at the end.
  3. Dress appropriately. If you arrive dressed too casually or too formally, the situation can be uncomfortable for both you and the person interviewing you.
  4. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and to everyone you meet in the organization.
  5. Shake hands with everyone, using a firm (but not forceful) grip, and make strong eye contact.
  6. Place your loose items on the floor next to your seat, in your lap, or on the side table, coffee table, or in front of you at a conference table. Your briefcase or bag should be kept at your feet, not on a chair or table.
  7. Do not ask for refreshments. If refreshment is offered, you can accept it. If you are asked to dine out as part of your interview, use good table manners.
  8. Keep electronic devices turned completely off. A phone set to vibrate will interrupt the meeting.
  9. Consider taking notes, though this isn't expected. It's a good way though to show that you're interested, and you can refer back to specific information later on.
  10. Keep a positive and friendly attitude. This includes ending on a high note and sharing your enthusiasm about the possibility of working there. 

The tone of your voice

Oftentimes your tone of voice communicates more than your words do. You can say you know how to perform the job duties, but if it doesn't sound like you do, then you won't inspire much confidence in the hiring manager.

Here are a few pointers for how to sound more confident...

  • Pause before answering in order to gather your thoughts. A five-second pause may seem like a long time to you, but it will likely show the interviewer that you have considered your answer.
  • Stick with a factual but interested tone. Avoid raising the pitch of your voice at the end of a statement. Doing so can change the tone of your statement to that of a question, which makes you seem uncertain. Avoid using the same tone for every answer, though, as it can make you sound bored.
  • Practice your answers before you go. If you have a good answer prepared and practiced, it will be on the tip of your tongue! You will sound more confident if you are not trying to think up an answer on the spot.
  • Try to reduce the number of times you use filler words. These are words like um, uh, like, and you know. They can imply that you are not sure about what you want to say.
  • Don't apologize for being nervous. Doing so actually calls more attention to the fact that you are worried about your performance.
  • Get some public speaking practice beforehand. You might consider  joining a local public speaking group, such as Toastmasters. You can also just practice with family or friends, and they can give you helpful feedback.

Body language

Body language can communicate almost as much information as what you are actually saying. Your true thoughts and attitude are often reflected in your body language. The more positive you feel about the interview and your abilities, the more likely this will be reflected in your body language.

Take a look at some examples of how body language can communicate thoughts and feelings.

There's a few ways you can improve your body language. Try video recording yourself during a practice interview to observe your nonverbal cues.

You can also practice with a friend or use a web conferencing tool like Zoom, which allows you to see a mirror view of yourself while you are talking to another person. Pay attention to any unflattering mannerisms you may have, like biting your lip, scowling while thinking, or nervous tapping.

While it is good to be aware of any body language concerns, the best way to portray good body language is to approach the interview with a positive attitude. When you feel positive, you will naturally relax and smile more, thus making you appear more confident and appealing.

Answering questions well

The largest part of your interview will be spent answering questions, so you will definitely want to know how to answer questions well. 

A business woman asking questions

Simple rules for answering questions

  • Ask for clarification if needed. An interviewer will not be put off by your questions; in fact, they may be impressed that you took the time to ask.
  • Be honest. Never embellish your past accomplishments. If you're lacking a critical skill, tell the hiring manager that you haven't had the opportunity to develop that skill yet, but that you are eager to learn.
  • Stay true to your message. Focus on the reasons the company should hire you; what skills and qualifications do you have that can be put to good use by this company? Use the STAR method (outlined in the previous lesson) to answer behavioral interview questions.
  • Always answer questions with your audience in mind. If you are switching fields, the interviewer may not understand some of the technical terms from your past role. Don't use jargon if it isn't relevant to the position you're applying for. 
  • Avoid topics that can get you into trouble. These typically include things in your personal life, such your age, religion, or political beliefs.
  • Use clear and concise language. Speak slowly and carefully to make sure your words are being understood.