Regardless of how much experience you have or how great your education is, if you lack the proper etiquette in an interview, it is unlikely that you will get the job. An interview is an opportunity to show prospective employers that you can act appropriately and comply with the standards dictated by the common workplace. Following the advice below will help ensure that you present yourself in a professional manner and provide hiring managers with the notion that these actions will continue once you receive the job. The basics for acting appropriately is essentially the same across all workplaces. So whether you are interviewing for a retail position or for a Vice President role, interview etiquette is rather standard.
Your Appearance and Attire
Your presentation is a big part of appropriate interview etiquette. First impressions matter in the business world, and ensuring your appearance is interview appropriate is an easy way to generate a positive first impression before words are even exchanged. If you come dressed for the part it will indicate that you are taking the opportunity seriously. If you walk in looking sloppy, that will tell the hiring manager that this position is not important to you, and cast doubts about your behaviour if you were to receive the role. In pre- and post-Covid times, most interviews start with a handshake introduction. Ensuring that your nails are clean and trimmed is important as this shows you maintain a level of personal care and it is something they will notice when they shake your hand. The minimum standard of dress code you should adhere to for an interview is business casual. For more professional or executive roles, wearing a suit is advised instead. Remember it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed when it comes to the level of formality you choose for an interview outfit. For business casual attire, instead of a suit, a dress shirt or blouse can also be worn, with an optional tie. Since some workplaces still have a more conservative culture, it is best not to wear anything too flashy. Wearing sweatpants or jeans is not advisable as they are too casual for an interview. Dress pants or a smart skirt are the strongest options for your lower attire. Ensure that your clothes are wrinkle free, as an unpressed outfit will give off a sloppy impression. It is also important to have clean, neat and combed hair that doesn’t cover your face. A haircut a couple days before the interview would be a good option if you don’t think your hair is appropriate. If you have facial hair, ensure that it is well trimmed. Shoes will also leave an impression. Sneakers are too casual for interviews. Clean dress shoes or any type of simple design with a black or tan colour are your best options. Wardrobe is a key element in interview etiquette as you want to make it clear that you belong in this environment and are taking the opportunity seriously.
Scent is also a necessary factor to consider when it comes to proper interview etiquette. Remember that interviewers will take your presentation of yourself during an interview as an indication of how you would present yourself on the job. It may sound like common sense advice but ensuring that you don’t have negative body odour is important as this will also fall into the realm of being perceived as sloppy. Having a shower before the interview will likely remedy this or you can utilize a mild or unscented deodorant, especially if you’re someone who sweats when they’re nervous about an interview. Bad breath is also a big turn off to hiring managers. Brushing your teeth beforehand is always advised. Chewing some mint gum before, but not during, the interview could help as well. Perfume or cologne is not always advised as someone in the office could have an allergy or aversion to it. If too much is sprayed it can be overwhelming, especially if your interview takes place in a smaller office, so ensure that it is utilized sparingly if you use it. Smoking before an interview might calm your nerves, but the smell could turn off potential employers as many find it distasteful. Nobody wants to deal with a bad smell. This is something that can definitely detract from the interest in your candidacy, regardless of your qualifications, and will be a distraction in the interview.
At the Interview
It’s common practice for interviewers to offer a glass of water or a hot beverage when meeting with you. Take the water even if you don’t plan on drinking it. This simply shows that you are calm, cool and collected. It can also help if you get dry mouth during the interview and provide you with some breathing room if you need time to think of an answer to their question. When it comes to interview etiquette, there are a number of things you should follow that are general professional courtesies for before the interview even begins. Showing up 15 minutes early has always been the standard. This demonstrates that timeliness is important to you and that you will maintain this while working. Avoid showing up too early, as this will appear that you didn’t know the interview time or that you have poor time management skills. Greet everyone with a friendly smile and a hello when you walk in, including reception. It’s wise to present that you are warm and inviting. Employers want someone who is kind to fresh faces. If you present an air of thinking you are better than others, this could signal that you will not mesh well with others that are already within the organization. Following these pointers will help indicate that you are professional and a potentially good team member before the actual interview occurs.
Your Behaviour During the Interview
When you begin the interview there are a number of tips that you should follow to present yourself as a prime candidate. In pre- and post-Covid-19 times, a firm handshake along with a smile is a must during introductions, as this presents that you are formal and confident. Greet those interviewing you as Mr. or Ms., unless they state otherwise. A comfortable level of eye contact also projects confidence. Looking around the room or focusing on other objects will give the impression that you are not paying attention. Good posture presents that you are confident and relaxed in this type of environment. Body language helps present that you are determined and passionate, which can be shown by avoiding fidgeting, not crossing your arms, smiling, and having an interested look when your interviewers are speaking. Your choice of words is also very crucial, as using slang or any foul language can make you appear unprofessional. Try to avoid filler words like “uhm”, “ahh”, and “like” when providing your answers. Ensuring that your phone is off or on silent is an important tip to follow, as it going off can be a sign of disrespect. If it does ring or buzz, turn it off immediately and apologize. With a little bit of practice, following these steps can be very simple. Rehearsing before you interview until you are comfortable is a good way to build and portray confidence.
Changes in Interview Etiquette Due to Covid-19
The interview process has certainly changed due to the pandemic, but there is still a protocol to follow. For any remote interviews, it is important to ensure that all of your equipment and programs are set up ahead of time so there is no delay. Having interviewers wait for you is discourteous and will likely be something they remember. For all video interviews, ensure that you are as presentable as you would be for meeting in person. This includes from head to toe, even though the interviewers will likely only see your upper half. Hold remote interviews in a quiet area to avoid any unwanted sound pollution and make sure the area the interviewers will see is organized. It is possible to come across as sloppy or unprofessional over a video call as well. When going for an in-person interview, ensure that you have a mask and are wearing it appropriately. As fun as some mask prints/patterns can be, try to opt for something more neutral. As it is unlikely they will want to shake hands, stating that it is nice to meet them will be sufficient for a greeting. Even though we are in unprecedented times, employers will still use interviews as a way of gauging a candidate’s professionalism so it is important that you adapt to the times to put your best foot forward.
Not all candidates will follow proper interview etiquette, which will immediately allow those who abide by it to have an advantage. It all comes down to acting according to proper workplace protocols. It’s your job to create the strongest first impression possible, as you want to impress on your interviewers that you would fit in well with their company’s environment. It may seem like a lot to remember, but with a little practice, it will easily become second nature. A good rule of thumb is to think: What would impress the boss in a very corporate setting?