What is Interview Etiquette and Why is it Important?
At its core, interview etiquette is a set of behavioral and situational guidelines people follow in order to make a good impression during an interview. Learning proper interview etiquette will help teach you what you should and should not do during an interview. As a result, not only will this help you feel more confident and comfortable during interviews, but your chances of making a good impression, standing out from other applicants, and getting the position you have applied for will increase significantly.
Almost every job you will have, from being a minimum wage worker to a CEO, you will have to interview for. You may also have to interview as part of the application process for leadership positions in extracurricular activities, college admissions, certain scholarships, etc. This is why it is incredibly valuable to learn proper interview etiquette as understanding it can open up a whole new world of opportunities for you.
It is important to note that interviews come in a wide variety of formats. Some may be in-person interviews, others might be over the phone, and some may even be virtual video interviews using Zoom or Skype. The length of an interview will vary depending upon the specific position you are applying for and on the interviewer’s personal interviewing style. Overall, no two interviews will be the same. However, there are general tips and tricks you can learn that will help you be well-prepared for almost every interview. To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of some key tips to aid you in preparing for an interview.
Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing for an Interview
Making a good first impression is a vital part of having a successful interview. No matter how qualified you may look on paper, leaving a bad impression or no impression at all can easily cost you the position you are applying for. While having an impressive, professional resume is an important part of the application process, it oftentimes only gets your foot in the door. It is up to you to get the rest of the way in and seal the deal by using an interview to show a potential employer just how qualified and capable you are.
Tips to Help You Properly Prepare for an Interview:
1. Embrace the Awkwardness
> Before you do anything, mentally prepare yourself for what will happen in the interview room. By this, I mean take the time to acknowledge and prepare for the likelihood that the actual interview might be somewhat awkward or uncomfortable. Understand that this is not necessarily a bad thing and that experiencing things such as nervousness, minor discomfort, or stress is all a natural part of the interview process.
> If you happen to struggle with really bad anxiety, try to find a discreet breathing exercise or relaxation trick that you will be able to do while sitting in the waiting room. This can help prevent you from having a panic attack and can calm your nerves before the interview starts.
2. Dress the Part
> Plan out at least a day in advance what you want to wear to the interview and make sure it is clean.
> Look at the website and social media pages of the company you’re applying to in order to see what the general dress code is like.
> If you’re unsure about what to wear, always lean towards overdressing instead of underdressing. Never wear anything that is ripped, wrinkled, stained, or incredibly tight or loose.
> Try to avoid wearing overly distracting patterns and colors. You want to look nice, but you also want the focus to remain on you and not just on your eye-catching clothes.
> Plan to wear something that is at least semi-comfortable. While it is important to dress professionally, it is also important to make sure that you’ll feel comfortable sitting or standing for an extended period of time.
3. Do Research Beforehand
> Before going to an interview, thoroughly research both the overall company and the specific position you applied for. This will give you a better idea of what qualifications the interviewer is looking for and what types of questions they might ask. It will also help you determine which of your accomplishments would be the best to point out and discuss during the interview.
> Be ready to provide specific examples of experiences or accomplishments you have that demonstrate the desired traits the interviewer is looking for.
> Make sure to also review both your resume and any application you may have submitted as the interviewer will likely have access to this information and has the right to ask you about any of it.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
> While you may not know every question your interviewer will ask, there are certain questions you can almost always expect to be asked. Here are a few examples:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? For this question you should prepare a short but informative elevator pitch.
What is your greatest strength?
What is your greatest weakness?
Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work at [insert company name]?
What makes you qualified for this specific position? Why should we hire you?
> Don’t feel weird asking a friend or family member to help you practice for an interview. Simply put together a list of potential questions you might be asked and have the other person read them to you and give feedback on your responses. If there’s no one you can ask, don’t hesitate to practice by yourself!
> Along with doing research, practicing can make you feel more prepared and as a result, more comfortable during the actual interview.
5. Create Questions to Ask the Interviewer
> While it may seem strange to ask your interviewer a question, it shows them that you are genuinely interested in the position and have done the necessary research.
> At the end of an interview, the interviewer will almost always ask you if you have any questions for them. Try to avoid saying no and instead ask them something relevant. Here are a few examples of what types of questions you should ask:
What is your favorite thing about working for [insert company name]?
What does a typical day look like for a person in this position?
I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this opportunity. What are the next steps in the hiring process?
> Some of your questions may get answered naturally during the interview so try to plan for this and create at least 5 questions.
6. Turn Your Cellphone Off Before the Interview
> Unless it is an emergency, it is seen as incredibly unprofessional for your phone to go off during an interview so make sure you fully cut if off instead of just silencing it.
> If for some reason you have to leave your phone sound or notifications on, make sure to inform your interviewer about it before the interview starts.
Extra Tips for an In-Person Interview:
1. Always Print Out Multiple Copies of Your Updated Resume
> This is helpful in case your interviewer doesn’t have a printed version of your resume or you end up having multiple interviewers.
2. Get to the Interview Early, but Not Too Early
> Look up and print out directions to the interview building ahead of time. Do a test drive to see how long it takes to get there.
> Always leave your house with plenty of time to spare and create a buffer of at least 20 minutes. This leaves time to deal with traffic, getting lost, etc.
> Try not to get to an interview more than 10-15 minutes in advance. Doing so can sometimes irritate interviewers or make them feel rushed.
> If you want to be extra cautious, leave for your interview as early as you would like and then simply wait in your car in the company’s parking lot until about 10 minutes before your interview is scheduled.
Extra Tips for a Phone Interview:
1. Find a Quiet Place that Has Good Phone Reception
> Make sure to let any family members or roommates know that you’ll be on an interview.
2. Have Your Resume and Any Additional Notes Set Out in Front of You
3. Make Sure Your Phone Ringer is Turned Up All the Way so You Don’t Miss the Interviewer Calling
> Turn any other phone notifications off.
4. Verify the Time You are Scheduled to Talk
> Make sure everyone is aware of any varying time zones.
5. Make Sure Your Phone is Completely Charged
Extra Tips for a Virtual Interview:
1. Make Sure You Have a Solid Internet Connection and Your Computer is Fully Charged
> Have the charging cord nearby just in case.
2. Test Out Your Computer’s Camera and Microphone Before Your Interview
> Try to do a test run by Skyping or Zooming with a friend.