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. Here are six essentials to help you shine on the big day:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
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.
Here are more resources on how to do just that:
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Send a thank you note
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. Read our tips on how to write a thank you note.
If you have multiple interviews on the same day with various people, it’s best to send a personalized thank you note to each individual who interviewed you.
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.