Job Interview Etiquette: Making a Great First Impression

You have one chance to make a good first impression – and much of that depends on interview etiquette. Read these ten etiquette tips for interviews to make a great first impression and turn your next interview into a job offer.

When you stop to think about why first impressions are so critical in a job interview situation, it makes sense – both employers and candidates are asked to make a critical decision based on extremely limited information and interaction. Because of that, details are magnified and reflect on your on your whole personality. If you are looking to find a job, interview etiquette is more important than ever.

Interview etiquette is simple if you follow this career advice on tips for interviews.

Etiquette Before the Interview

shaking hands at an interview - interview etiquette

  • Dress appropriately — Dressing up for an interview not only makes you more attractive, it is a sign of respect that you send to the person interviewing you. The emphasis here is less on what you would actually wear than that you look neat, polished and pressed. If you look sloppy, that signals that you are careless and even disrespectful – not the kind of impression you want to leave. Click here for more information about appropriate interview attire.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early – Punctuality is important, so get directions, prepare your clothes, and fill your car with gas ahead of time. It goes unsaid that being late or seeming flustered and rushed is bad etiquette.
  • Turn off your cell phone or leave it in the car – Avoid the distraction. This not only applies to cell phones, but your Blackberry, iPhone or whatever device you use, as well. Don’t touch it, fiddle with it or check it. Leave it alone. Show impeccably polite behavior and interview etiquette in the waiting room. Many interviewers ask their assistants to be a second pair of eyes for them, so you’ll want to be sure they give their boss a great report about you.

Etiquette During the Interview

Wear a Smile – A smile conveys warmth, competence, confidence and high self-esteem. It helps make that. Smile often, engage in small talk and have a sense of humor without trying to be a comedian. These simple gestures establish rapport, break the ice and can get you onto common ground.

  • Greet the interviewer by name – Depending on the formality of the company, address the interviewer as Mr. or Ms. with their last name. Learn pronunciations ahead of time. Be polite, attentive and friendly to the receptionist and anyone else that assists prior to or during your interview. You are “on” from the moment you walk through the door, so bring your interview etiquette with you.
  • Introduce yourself – Put your interviewer at ease by introducing yourself using your first and last names, and let them know that you are happy to be there.
  • Have a firm handshake – Your handshake signals to the interviewer that you are ready to do business. Test your handshake ahead of time with family or friends to get this right. A firm handshake, using your whole hand in the other person’s hand is appropriate. Shake hands with women and men the same way. No wimpy “dead fish” handshakes, no “bone-breakers” and no tip-of-the finger handshakes.
  • Let the interviewer take the lead — Wait to be seated. Other than water, do not accept refreshments unless the interviewer does. Let the interview proceed at their pace, not yours. This may seem like old-fashioned interview etiquette, but you are in their territory and it is wise for you wait for your cue.
  • Listen – Be an active listener. Do not interrupt. Pay attention, watch their body language, use eye contact, nod when appropriate and ask appropriate questions and clarify when needed. Incorporate phrases from their questions into your answers and comments.
  • Communicate clearly – This is where your preparation pays off. Speak clearly, don’t rush and don’t drone on and on. Avoid slang, “ums” and “uhs.” Your confident attitude will shine through your clear communication.

Etiquette After the Interview

  • Shake hands – Another firm, confident handshake will end the interview well.
  • Thank the interviewer by name and ask for a business card if they have not already provided one to you.
  • Send an interview thank you letter within 24 hours.

The basics of interview etiquette are easy to follow. Don’t let poor interview etiquette get in the way of a great job opportunity. These interview tips may sound simple (they are!) but they allow you to put the attention on what you have to offer, rather than minor, unpleasant details.

Good luck!