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Job Interview Etiquette: Tips for Making a Good Impression

Updated on January 10, 2017
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

If you want to make a good impression at your next job interview, read these practical tips and suggestions for how to behave before, after and during the all-important job interview. You may be a highly qualified candidate, but if you demonstrate a lack of manners or common sense, you'll diminish your chances of getting that job offer you've been looking for.

Making a good impression at a job interview involves more than showing up in freshly pressed, clean clothes!
Making a good impression at a job interview involves more than showing up in freshly pressed, clean clothes!

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.

— Arthur Ashe

Approach interviews with a blend of confidence and humility. Over the course of my career I've interviewed hundreds of people looking for work. Credentials, past work experience and positive references are all critical components of making it to the top of the pile. However, cross certain boundaries during an interview, and your chances of getting hired will probably decrease. Recruiters want to hire people who are well adjusted, respectful and aware of other people's needs for privacy, space and respect.

If you want a solid chance at landing your next big dream job, avoid some of these common interviewing mistakes.

1. Don’t be rude to the receptionist. In fact, be nice to everyone within a five square-mile radius of your interview. A colleague once told me about the time she witnessed someone on the bus take the last available seat instead of giving it to an elderly woman. My colleague got off the same bus stop as this rude person and walked into the same building as this rude person and opened the door into her business for this rude person. (You can imagine how well the interview went for this rude person.) Treat everyone with kindness and good will, not just because it’s good for the job hunt, but because it's also the right thing to do.

2. Don’t use the interviewer’s first name unless you've specifically been invited to do so. Having said that, address your interviewer directly by name -- whether first name or full name, whatever is called for – during the interview. People like hearing their names repeated.

3. Don’t touch objects on the interviewer’s desk without asking permission first. Even something as simple as reaching over and grabbing a pen from a jar on the interviewer’s desk is an invasion of personal space. Put your purse or briefcase next to you on the floor, never on the interviewer's desk. If you are carrying a folio, keep that on your lap until you are invited to share the contents with the interviewer.

Also, don't ask questions about or comment on personal photos or mementos on the interviewer’s desk. You may think you're making friendly small talk, but the interviewer is not there to share his or her personal life with you. Respect the interviewer’s privacy and personal boundaries. Until the full recruitment phase is over (interview, reference checks, job offer), you're still considered a stranger.

4. Don’t tell private, personal stories in an attempt to gain sympathy (i.e.; family member recently passed away, illness, divorce, etc.). Interviews are not the place to share intimate details of your personal life. Besides, if you're disclosing these details to a complete stranger, the interviewer may be concerned that you haven’t addressed these life issues adequately enough to perform your job.

5. Don’t question the organization’s regular business practices. Believe it or not, I interviewed someone who told me she thought the job description attached to the position she was applying for was all wrong. She came into the meeting with her metaphorical guns loaded, ready to tell me what was wrong with my process and how she would fix it. Do you think she got called back for a second interview?

6. Don’t call your current or past jobs "stepping stones" on your career path. An interviewer is interested in recruiting someone who will be loyal to the company and stay for a good length of time. Suggesting that you're only interested in moving up the ladder doesn’t make you sound ambitious; it makes the interviewer wonder if they’ll have to fill your position again in a year or two because you've moved on to other "bigger, better things."

7. Don’t try to one-up the interviewer by asking them things that they wouldn’t normally know the answer to. Putting the interviewer on the spot will not make you look clever; it will only put the interviewer on the defensive.

8. Don’t forget to ask for a business card from each person who interviews you. You'll want to make sure you spell their name and title correctly when you send a Thank You note by email (within 24 hours after the interview).

You never know when you'll be making a first impression on your future boss. You could meet him on street, so be polite and courteous wherever you go!
You never know when you'll be making a first impression on your future boss. You could meet him on street, so be polite and courteous wherever you go!

Bonus Job Interview Etiquette Tip: Never B.Y.O.B. No, not alcohol (you should never bring that to an interview). The 'B' here stands for beverage. Never bring your own coffee or water bottle to the interview. If you're worried about having a dry mouth before the interview, keep a small bottle of water in your bag if you must and take a sip before you arrive at the interview. Then put it back in you bag (tightly sealed!) until you have left the interview.

If your interviewer wraps up the meeting much sooner than the average length of a job interview, it might be because you've made a bad impression. Perhaps the employer has already decided that you are not the right candidate for the job.
If your interviewer wraps up the meeting much sooner than the average length of a job interview, it might be because you've made a bad impression. Perhaps the employer has already decided that you are not the right candidate for the job.

Different Job Interview Formats

In addition to the traditional one-to-one interview that most job-seekers are familiar with, depending on the job you are looking for, you may be asked to participate in one or more of these other types of interviews.

Phone interviews: Phone interviews usually take place before an in-person interview and allow a prospective employer to weed unqualified or unsuitable job applicants. That's why not everyone who gets called for a phone interview will be called in for a formal, face-to-face interview. Therefore, it's important that you handle your phone interview in a professional manner. You will likely be scheduled for a phone interview, rather than called out of the blue, so you do have time to prepare in advance. Before conducting a phone interview, gather important job search documents in front of you (i.e.; resume, information about the company interviewing you). Make the call from a location where you won't be interrupted or have to shout over loud background noise. Devote as attention to your phone interview as you would to a face to face interview.

Group interviews: Group interviews are usually used to hire for entry-level or jobs with little to no skills required. The lead interviewer will likely conduct a general information session outlining the job requirements and wages followed by a question and answer session and/or a skills test. Qualified candidates who are still interested in the job after the initial round of screening may then be invited into a one-to-one interview.

Panel interviews: In a panel interview, you’ll have more than one person interviewing you. The row of interviewers, which can be as few as three people or as many as five, will take turns asking your questions about your qualifications and how you believe you are a good fit for the job.

Test Interviews: A test interview is just what it sounds like, a test of your ability to perform certain job-specific tasks (i.e.; typing speed, computer proficiency, English-speaking skills). A test interview could also involve a personality test (i.e.; Myer-Briggs Assessment).

Take your behavioral cues from the person who is interviewing you.
Take your behavioral cues from the person who is interviewing you.

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.

— Theodore Roosevelt

What is your number one fear about going to a job interview?

See results

© 2012 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • MaharshiRudra profile image

    Maharshi Rudra 

    5 years ago from India

    Very Good tips for new age people.

  • theclevercat profile image

    Rachel Vega 

    8 years ago from Massachusetts

    Excellent! I would like more people to do these things. Voted up, useful, and sharing!

  • profile image

    8 years ago

    Good tips. They seem to make a lot of sense. Voted up. (Another tip would be, cover your tattoos for the interview.)

  • Sherry Hewins profile image

    Sherry Hewins 

    8 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

    These are great things to keep in mind, it's so easy to blow it.

  • pedrn44 profile image


    8 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

    I have been doing a lot of interviewing lately and appreciate the tips you shared in this hub.


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