Behaviors of Job Interview Etiquette that Make You Stand Out
It is so easy to understand why many people count a job interview as one of the more terrifying and nerve-wracking experiences that one may go through during adulthood. Jobseekers cannot help but feel that, once they are inside the room where the interview will take place, they are under close scrutiny and laid open to being judged by a complete stranger, who is armed with information about him written down on a resume.
Clearly, this creates a situation where jobseekers become anxious and distracted during the interview. In a survey of chief financial officers, it was revealed that the interview is the stage during the entire recruitment process where the jobseekers are most likely to “slip up”. On paper, they are the most suitable candidate, but that impression changes once they are interviewed.
If the success of an interview (and the eventual hiring of the candidate that was interviewed) rode solely on the answers given by the candidate, things would probably be a lot simpler.
That means the candidate need only focus on anticipating the questions that may be asked during the interview, and formulating answers that will prove to the interviewer that he is the best fit for the open position.
However, that is not the case. The answers are only part of the whole picture, as seen from the eyes of the interviewer. He will be looking at the whole package, not just your qualifications, and your eloquence and confidence in answering questions and explaining yourself.
He will also observe your body language, your personality quirks, how you carry yourself, and your overall behavior.
In this guide, we explore 1) what job interview etiquette is and 2) behaviors that will make you stand out in job interviews.
JOB INTERVIEW ETIQUETTE
You can tell a lot about a person by the way he behaves under certain situations. If he behaves properly and is polite toward other people, he may be described as one having good manners, or one who practices good etiquette. Incidentally, for many people, observing good etiquette is also indicative of good breeding, which could be attributed to his upbringing and training.
Etiquette, in general terms, is often defined as a code of “polite conduct and proper behavior”. It refers to the rules that indicate the “proper and polite way to behave” so as to avoid offending or annoying other people.
We often hear of table manners, of office etiquette in the workplace, or of church etiquette when in places of worship. In the same way, etiquette should also be present during a job interview. In fact, it plays a very important role, since it provides interviewers a glimpse of the personality of the candidate.
So you want to get that job, and you think you are qualified for it? Then you have to impress the interviewer, not just with your skills, experience and other qualifications, as you stated in your resume, but with the overall package that is you.
This has happened many times before, and still happening today. A recruiter is greatly impressed with the credentials of a candidate for an open position in the company. He has all the requisite skills and qualifications, and his level of experience puts him way ahead of the other candidates. You are so impressed that you are looking forward to the day of the interview, when you will get to meet him and talk to him in greater depth.
On the day of the interview, the candidate walks through the door, and you do a double-take at the sight of an unsmiling man with unkempt hair and scruffy clothes confidently swaggering in, and plopping down unceremoniously on the seat across the table. He takes out his phone and puts it on top of the table, then looks at you expectantly, clearly waiting for you to say something to start the interview. And wait, is he chewing gum…?
As the interviewer, how would you feel? Most likely, you will be offended at this show of lack of courtesy, and you’re probably disappointed that someone with very good credentials turned out to be quite rude. Will you still consider him a front-runner for the open position? Probably not.
In a job interview, you will basically be selling yourself. By practicing proper job interview etiquette, you will have greater chances of convincing the interviewer to “buy” you and what you have to offer.
BEHAVIORS THAT WILL MAKE YOU STAND OUT
Show up on time… not late, and not too early, either.
Punctuality is a trait that many employers appreciate in their employees. It is indicative of the candidate’s consciousness when it comes to schedules, and his overall time management skills. It is also one way of showing respect for the interviewer and his time. At the same time, you are demonstrating how serious and determined you are about getting this job.
Common sense dictates that being late for the interview will work against you. If the interviewer is keeping score, he is likely to deduct points if you show up after the appointed time that you are supposed to appear. Worst case scenario, if five or ten minutes have passed and you still haven’t arrived, the interviewer may decide to cancel the interview altogether. When you come in, panting and short of breath, your shot at getting that job is already gone.
Here’s the crazy part: did you know that being too early is also not a good idea? After all, being punctual means being “on time”, and not necessarily being early. Here’s why you should not be too early to arrive at a job interview.
- It will be deemed inconsiderate of you, showing up too early. When the interview was scheduled, you basically entered into an agreement to show up at the designated time and place. By showing up too early, you did not follow the terms of the agreement.
- There is enthusiasm and there is desperation. There is a difference. If showing up late may give the impression that you are not all that committed to applying for the job, showing up too early makes you look too eager and desperate.
- The long wait will take its toll on you. You may have arrived at the venue refreshed and energetic, but if you end up sitting for an hour, doing nothing, you may end up getting bored, weary and drained. This will not bode well when the interview actually starts.
- It puts unwanted pressure to the interviewer, or the people working in the office where the interview will take place. They are expecting you to show up at 10 in the morning, but then you showed up just before the clock struck 9. Needless to say, they are unprepared, so they won’t really know what to do with you. You run the risk of distracting them from what they are doing, so don’t be surprised if they get slightly annoyed.
How early is too early? Consensus among experts is that you should be there 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the interview. This gives you just the right amount of time to relax, get your bearings together, and accustom yourself to the environment before you face the person who will interview you. This will also free the interviewer from the burden of having to entertain or accommodate you during the brief waiting time.
If, despite everything, you still end up too early, you can kill time by taking a leisurely walk in the area, but not in the exact office or room where the interview will take place. If you drove to the venue, you can relax for a bit in your car, listening to music.
Before entering the room, turn your cell phone off.
Do not just put it on vibrate; turn the thing OFF. You may be concerned that you’ll get a very important call, or an emergency will come up somewhere else and you will be needed immediately. That worry is justified, to a certain extent. But you have to remember that this is a job interview, and you’d probably be one of the first to say that it is one of the most important interviews of your life, since it will be one of the major deciding factors of whether you will get a job or not.
The moment that you arrived at the place where you will be interviewed, there should be nothing more important than the interview itself. Surely it won’t kill you to have your phone turned off for the 30 minutes to one hour that you will be interviewed?
Remove any distractions that may wreak havoc with your concentration. You may argue that you will not be bothered by a vibrating phone in your purse or the inside pocket of your coat. But what about the interviewer? Even when a phone is on vibrate, it can still be heard, especially in a quiet room. The interviewer may get distracted, and this will make you look inconsiderate.
Make eye contact, and show those pearly-whites.
Shifty eyes, difficulty in meeting someone’s gaze… these are sure signs of discomfort and, at times, may be even misconstrued as suspicious behavior. If you’ve had trouble looking people in the eye in the past – especially if they are strangers you’ve never met before in your life – then it is time to learn doing that.
In order to communicate, you have to be able to connect to the person you want to communicate with. In an interview, that connection may be initially established when you look the interviewer in the eye. By doing so, you are sending the message that you are fully aware why you are here, and that you are ready for the interview. Without words, you are telling them that you are someone that they can trust and rely on. Otherwise, you won’t be able to meet their eyes.
And do not forget to smile. A smile will make you appear confident and approachable. It is also an effective tool to mask your nervousness. It is also effective in adding levity when the atmosphere becomes too grim.
Be careful not to overdo it, however. You might end up engaging them in a staring contest, making them feel as though you are challenging and even antagonizing them. Smiling too much may also make you seem like you are pretending. Imagine being asked to talk about something serious and somber, and you’re still smiling. The interviewer may think there is something wrong with you.
Be the one to greet first.
You entered the room, and your eyes met that of the interviewer. You smiled, and he smiled back. An awkward silence followed, as if you are both waiting for the other to speak first.
Take the initiative and be the first to say your greetings. You are supposed to impress during the interview, so you have to put your best foot forward from the beginning. Do not wait for the interviewer to greet you first. He might be testing you, seeing how you will start the ball rolling.
Let the interviewer finish speaking before you do.
It is basic manners to allow the other person to finish what he is saying before you take your turn. The interviewer is the one with the power in the room, so let him take the lead.
There may be times when you find the interviewer to be taking things too slow for your liking. You are very much tempted to interject while he is speaking, and you have to resist the urge to finish his sentences for him.
Resist. Do not give in to the urge. First of all, cutting off the interviewer mid-speech will be seen as tactless and rude. Second, if the interviewer is asking a question and you cut him off before he could finish, it is possible that you will be answering the wrong question. Third, it is also possible that the interviewer is just using this as a ploy to test your patience, or see how you would handle the situation.
Besides, it will be to your advantage to let him finish. You’ll have more time to formulate responses in your head. If he is relaxed or laid-back, take that as a cue to do the same. This will prevent you from rambling unnecessarily, as you will be able to choose your words carefully.
Pay attention and take notes, if you must.
It is the height of rudeness during the interview to ask the interviewer to repeat his question because you were too distracted to catch it the first time. This will only make you seem easily distracted and scatter-brained, and that’s not the impression that you want to give him.
It is important to pay attention to everything the interviewer says so you can respond accordingly. He may even provide some information that you can use later on when formulating your answers to his succeeding questions.
You may feel the need to take notes during the interview. Before you whip out your leather-bound notepad and pen, however, you should first ask the interviewer if it is all right for you to take down notes. If he allows it, take this opportunity to jot down important points that you may refer to later on, especially when you have questions of your own.
If, on the other hand, the interviewer seems disconcerted or shows hesitation when you ask whether you may take down notes or not, take that as a hint and put your notepad and pen away. Looks like you’d have to rely on your memory wholly instead.
Bring letters of references and samples of work, just in case.
It is also good etiquette to be prepared. Invest in a leather briefcase or a portfolio envelope to put documents in, and bring it with you during the interview. In several technical jobs, the interviewer may ask to see samples of your work, and if you are prepared, you can readily slide them out of the envelope and hand it to him. In case he asks for references, you will also be ready to provide them.
Bring that, and not much else. Avoid lugging a large tote bag containing your laptop, tablet, make-up kit, a change of clothes and flats to swap with your pumps later on. You want to look professional, not like a mom headed to the supermarket.
There are some jobseekers that opt not to ask questions, even if there are a few bothering them, because they are afraid that this would affect their chances of being hired. Usually, as the interview is winding up, the interviewer asks if you have any questions. He is asking this because he really does want to know if you want to clear or confirm something. Therefore, you should take the chance.
Asking questions is one way to further drive in the fact that you are really interested in the job and the company. Not asking anything implies that you couldn’t care less about whether you get the job or not.
However, do not ask just any random question. Ask questions that are relevant to the job, the company and the recruitment process. You may be curious about an aspect of the job that was not fully explained; this is your opportunity to gain clarity. If you do your research, you will find a lot of suggested questions that jobseekers should ask during the interview.
Thank the interviewer after the interview.
When the interview is over, do not forget to thank the interviewer for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to you. Do it with a firm handshake, a smile and a sincere and polite tone of voice. Call him by his name when thanking him, and he is sure to appreciate that you were able to remember it.
On your way out of the room, you may encounter other employees or staff of the company. Remember to thank them for accommodating you as well. If the interview went well, you might end up working alongside these people in the future, so it is a good idea to start off on the right foot.
You may also send a simple “thank you” note or a card, written by your hand. Do not go overboard and send a huge basket of flowers or gifts, as this may be taken the wrong way, and they will think you are trying to bribe your way to getting the job.
OTHER JOB INTERVIEW ETIQUETTE TIPS
The tips below may not be very new to you if you have ever prepared for a job interview. Let’s take a quick look at all of them together to identify some of the best practices that can make you stand out.
Dress for the job interview.
Appearances matter, so you have to take extra care with how you dress. Do you research on the dress code of the company, and use that as basis when putting your job interview outfit together. If you are unsure about the dress code, the safest route would be to stick to conventional office or business attire. Go conservative; avoid skimpy and revealing clothes. Stay away from jarring colors and stick to muted or neutral tones. You are the star of the interview, not your clothes.
To ensure that you look presentable, pay attention to your grooming. Your clothes should fit you properly. See to it that they are laundered and pressed. Wear the appropriate shoes, but make sure they are clean and comfortable. Accessorize if you must, but keep it simple. You want the interviewer to pay attention to you, and not the sparkling gems on your neck, ears, wrists and fingers.
Make sure your face is visible, so keep your hair back. Ladies wearing make-up should use them sparingly. You want to look professional, as if you are ready to get to work, instead of going to a party.
Along with good grooming, hygiene is also very important. You would not believe how many recruiters have been turned off by bad body odor, never mind that the person has good credentials. Remember, this is a very important meeting, so you have to look your best.
Use proper titles when addressing the interviewer… and the other people you meet during the interview.
Until the interviewer informs you how he or she wants to be addressed, you should make it a point to greet and call them as Sir, Ma’am or, if you made the effort to find out their names, Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith. If they belong to specific professions, such as a doctor, a lawyer, or a professor, for example, use the appropriate address. This is a sign of respect and displays professionalism.
Do the same for the other people you come across at the interview location. You may not know it, but the person you rode the elevator with on your way up to the floor where your interview will be conducted may be a member of the company’s senior management. The lady you met at the hall may even be the interviewer!
Practice a firm handshake.
A good grip – not too tight, not too loose – can convey how confident you are. Too loose, and he might think you are wary about being in contact with people. Too tight, and he might think you are too eager. Worse, you may even end up hurting him because you were gripping too tightly.
Avoid shaking his hand vigorously; you may end up looking too excited, or too nervous. Hold his hand for a beat or two, then naturally let go. If you hold on too long, it may seem like you are trying to be too familiar with him.
Your body language exhibites your business etiquette.
Sit down only when told to.
It would be impolite and uncomfortable if you take a seat while your interviewer is still on his feet unless, of course, he tells you to take a seat. Wait to be invited to sit down, and once you get the invitation, do so with as much poise and grace as you can. Do not just plop down on the chair as if you have been on your feet too long and you are immensely relieved to be able to sit down.
Any personal belongings should be kept away from the top of the table, or anywhere between you and the interviewer. Put it discreetly beside your chair, or under it, within easy reach in case he asks for the references or work samples that you brought with you.
Keep your eye off the clock.
Is there a clock in the room? Avoid looking at it. Even if you feel like the interview has been dragging on for too long, and you are wondering how many minutes have passed, do not look at the clock to check the time. If the interviewer catches you, he might think you are in a hurry to be somewhere else, to do something more important than the job interview that is taking place right now.
Obviously, you should also avoid looking at the watch on your wrist. You may think you’re being smart by looking at it surreptitiously, but interviewers are trained to be observant, so they are bound to notice it. Keep your watch face covered or, better yet, do not wear a watch during the interview.
Maintain good posture.
It has been proven that having good posture is important for your health and well-being. But it can also help in boosting your image, or how others perceive you. Bagg Group describes the “power pose” as a winner’s pose, with your shoulders back, your chin up, and your back straight. When seated, try to lean forward a little, just enough to imply to the interviewer that he has your full attention, and you are interested in what he is saying.
Outwardly, good posture will make you look like you can take on the world and do anything you set your mind to. Inwardly, you will feel more confident and positive, with all nerves and anxiety kept at bay.
It pays to always be on your best behavior, in any and every situation. Make it a way of life, not just during job interviews. If you do, then practicing job interview etiquette will come easily and naturally to you. Who knows? Your good behavior may even be the very thing that will get you the job that will pay you.
McKinsey & Co, the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Co, also known as the MBB in short or the “Big …
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