Job Interview Etiquette

Armed with a polished resume, sharp interview suit, and a thorough background research of the company, you might think you are ready for a job interview, but not so fast. Etiquette plays an important role in first impressions. Even the most qualified job candidates can blow an interview by making a few common blunders.

Vicky Oliver, an award-winning author of books on job-hunting, interviews, and business etiquette, shared her wisdom on how to make the best impression at an interview.

Oliver’s career advice has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg TV and more than 100 local and national radio programs. Her books include 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, Power Sales Words: How to Write It, Say It, and Sell It with Sizzle , Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions.

Question: What are the major points of etiquette one should observe in a job interview?

Oliver: Be on time. That means walking into the building a few minutes earlier than your interview. Realize that the interview starts the moment you get off the elevator, so be courteous to the receptionist as well as anyone else in the waiting area.
Keep your mobile device at home, so you won’t even be tempted to check it!
Grace your interviewer with your full, undivided attention.

Question: What are some commonly committed interview blunders?

Oliver: Sometimes we can be inadvertently rude. We feel bored, so we check our watches. Or we feel nervous, so we fidget. These tiny signals show your interviewer that you’d rather be elsewhere. When you’re in a job interview, show your interest by being 100% attuned to your interviewer. Really listen to what she’s saying. Resolve to be present.

Question: Can you share an embarrassing or amusing interview etiquette story?

Oliver: I know someone who slipped on the floor, literally falling down on his butt! He laughed it off, which made his interviewer feel more comfortable and the candidate was granted a callback interview. Sometimes showing grace under pressure can really help your chances.

Question: When interviewing with an international company, what are some universal do’s and don’ts to avoid international business etiquette mistakes?

Oliver: The best thing to do is to buy a few international etiquette books so that you don’t make a gaffe. Customs vary a lot from country to country, and you always want to show respect. If you know someone working at the company, ask him for his advice as well.

Question: If you make an embarrassing interview etiquette faux pas, what is your advice on how to recover?

Oliver: So often, we don’t know what we have done wrong, so recovery can be challenging. If you call someone by the wrong name, apologize, and be sure to make a special point of repeating the person’s correct name a few times. If you are being interviewed by two people at the same time, be sure to spend equal amounts of time looking at them and conversing with them. It doesn’t matter which one of them is more important. Be polite to both.

Question: Job candidates have traditionally been advised to send thank you notes or e-mails to interviewers. How has this tradition changed? Should you still send a physical note in the mail or will e-mail suffice? What is the timeline on sending a “thank you.” Should you do it within the day?

Oliver: I believe in sending an email within 24 hours. But I would write it in a formal manner — as if I were sending it via snail mail. If you’re lucky, the interviewer will email you right back. Now you’re in a dialogue with that person.

Question: What are some questions you should avoid asking during a first interview?

Oliver: Never ask anything about your salary, physical office space, or promotability at a first meeting. It looks over-confident. Wait till your interviewer brings up these topics.

Question: Please share any other advice you might have about job interviews.

It may sound holistic, but resolve to enjoy the meeting. You are there to sell yourself, and part of that is having the confidence to be yourself. Do your homework on the company; brush up on any questions you think you’ll be asked; and then just tell yourself that for the next forty minutes you are going to shine.

–Elise Marrion


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