Your job interview etiquette or lack of it will not go unnoticed by respectable employers.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional, new to the job market or returning to work, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the basics of interview etiquette.
Proper interview etiquette may be second nature to you, but…
it’s still a good idea to do a quick self-assessment to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
You’d be surprised how often you are judged by your body language or other personality quirks.
We all have them, but once you become aware of your mannerisms, you can over compensate for them during your interview to better reflect the real you.
Pearl of Wisdom: Nearly one-third (32%) of chief financial officers recently polled said that job seekers are more likely to slip up during their interview than at any other time during the hiring process. Little subtleties in your personality or mannerisms aren’t so little…so don’t take them for granted.
Here are eleven essentials from worldjobtrends to help you shine on the big day:
Taking time to prepare is the most conscientious thing you can do before an interview. A job opening at a company typically indicates a real need for more people, meaning that the individuals you’re interviewing with are taking time from their schedules to speak with you. The best way to be respectful of this time is to arrive fully prepared to answer their questions and ask your own insightful questions.
2. Make sure your cell phone is off
The last thing you need is a distraction during one of the most important meetings of your life. People can still hear your cell ring in vibrate mode. Better yet…just leave your cell phone in your car.
Right now there is nothing more important than your interview. This could be a life changing moment for you and your family.
3. Treat everyone you meet with respect
This extends to all areas of life, and it remains true in the context of a job interview. From the moment you leave your home on the day of the interview, make a conscious effort to be respectful. Be mindful of how you behave on the commute or in an elevator — no one wins points for cutting off the CEO in the parking lot or failing to hold the door for the hiring manager.
Think ahead of time about how you’ll treat everyone in the office with respect and present yourself well. Security personnel, receptionists and anyone else you encounter on your way to the interview room may be asked to give feedback on you.
4. Let the company take the lead during your interview
Sometimes when your interviewer is soft spoken or laid back you may feel the urge to keep things moving. So, you start taking back some control and the next thing you know, you’re rambling.
Resist this. Let the employer run the show.
If there are periods of silence…just sit there in the silence. If you are well prepared for your interview, relax, you have nothing to worry about.
One of the most common interviewing mistakes is talking too much. It’s easy to ramble and over explain things if your interview is a person of few words and there are periods of silence. Resist this and simply let them set the pace of the interview.
5. Practice polite, confident body language
As you walk into the building, hold your head up and pull your shoulders back. Your posture and stride will help you convey professionalism and confidence. You may want to practice this walk before the interview so it feels natural.
While you’re waiting for your interviewers, sit with your back straight and shoulders open. Hands can rest on your lap or armrests. Feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles. Avoid being on your phone so you can keep your body language open and focus on being present.
Bring your things in a bag or portfolio that’s easy to hold and can neatly contain everything you need — you don’t want to appear encumbered or disorganized.
Respect communal space. Don’t lounge in the waiting or interview rooms in a way that inconveniences others (resting your feet on another chair, spreading your legs, placing your belongings in a chair someone else could sit in, etc.).
During the interview, find the right balance for your energy. You want to be upbeat without being aggressive. One way to strike this balance is to avoid leaning too far back or coming forward too much. Sit up straight, using your hands to gesture rather than moving your body.
6. Don’t step on the last 3 words of someone’s conversation
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend these days.
When I’m talking with someone, often times they will step on the last 2-3 words of my sentence and talk over me without extending to me the courtesy of finishing my sentence.
Has this ever happened to you? Annoying, isn’t it?
Reporters and TV talk show hosts do it all the time. It is especially prevalent among Type A personalities.
Let your interviewer finish making their point, pause for 1-2 seconds; then, respond to their question or add to the conversation.
7. Remember your table manners
Some interviews may be conducted over a meal. All the basics of how to be polite at the table apply here:
- If your meal arrives first, wait to eat until others have received their food as well
- Place your napkin in your lap
- Don’t talk with food in your mouth
- Take small, manageable bites
- It’s best to not drink alcoholic beverages during an interview. If your interviewer orders alcohol, use your best judgment and stay within your comfort zone. You can always opt for a seltzer or soft drink.
8. Ace the introductions
If you are sitting when someone approaches you, stand up before you shake their hand. Look them in the eyes and smile. Offer a greeting like, “It’s nice to meet you…” and say their name. You’ll be more likely to remember their name if you say it out loud when you first meet.
For the handshake, you want to be firm but not grip their hand too strongly. Make sure your hand isn’t limp. Pro tip: if you happen to be on the receiving end of a limp handshake, give their hand a gentle squeeze. This can prompt them to make their hand more firm.
Make eye contact when you’re being asked and answering questions. This eye contact doesn’t need to be continuous or too intense. Use it strategically to indicate that you’re listening or to emphasize an important point. You want to convey to the interviewer that you are focused on them and very much in the moment.
9. Take notes during your interview
Bring a professional looking binder with you so you can jot down a few notes during your interview. This conveys a sincere interest in what your interviewers have to say, and gives you a chance to jot down a question to ask at the appropriate time.
When I say a professional looking binder, I’m not talking about a cheap 3 ring binder like you carried around in the 8th grade. Invest in a leather binder that looks first class. Also, don’t use an IPad or electronic tablet to take notes unless you’re applying for a programmer or other IT position .
The other nice thing about having a professional binder on your lap is you can use it as a cheat sheet if you’re nervous. Prior to your interview you should have a few key phrases written down to help you if you get stuck…and your short list of appropriate questions to ask them.
Lastly, you can keep handy your your professional references and copies of your resume in case they ask you for them. If a hiring manager asks you for your professional references during your interview, this is definitely a buying signal.
10. Your interview is not over until you drive down the road.
In a few cases, I’ve known hiring managers to watch candidates from their office window as they exit the building and get into their car. People can do some pretty outrageous things like spitting, lighting up a cigarette, arranging themselves, yapping on their cell phones for 20 minutes while leaning on their car, chowing down on a sandwich in their car, and other things you would not believe.
So, stay in professional mode until your tail lights are out of sight. Also, you may also be observed arriving for your interview.
11. Promptly send a thank you note after your interview
This is a MUST on your job interview etiquette list. Not only is this a common courtesy, but it also keeps your name in front of those who interviewed you.
You should follow up with an email thank you to the hiring manager within 24 hours. This can be a quick note simply thanking them for their time or a longer note that elaborates on some of the things you talked about.
In addition to the email, it’s appropriate to send a handwritten note. Especially if you felt a connection with the hiring manager, this is a good way to leave an impression. Even if you don’t get the job this time, closing the loop with a thank you note can be a way to continue a professional relationship with this person.