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Interview Etiquette, the what and the how

Interview Etiquette

Effortless style and humanitarian grace, who wouldn’t want to see her waiting for an interview?

Interview Etiquette

When I was growing up, my mom gave me a book on proper etiquette. My mom may have only been 4 foot 11, but she was a drill instructor when it came to manners. She taught me how to set a table for a multiple course meal, insisted I call elders by their last name and checked my thank you letters. She held a fanatical belief that manners and consideration will never go out of style and will be appreciated by any demographic. This was reinforced to me when I recently interviewed a senior developer for a VP of Engineering position. It was obvious this guy spent a majority of his life outside of the United States, but he was one of the most gracious people I have ever met.  He smiled the entire day, he always insisted on holding the door for all of the interviewers, and he made the process easy on us. He literally could walk with kings and keep in touch with the townsfolk   Interview Etiquette at its finest. Yes, he was hired and it was a pleasure to work with him.    

Young people are stereotyped

For young interviewers right out of school, I think this advice is more pertinent than ever. If there is one stereotype that young people need to be conscious of, it is a lack of manners and consideration. Young people usually do not have much experience, and this lack of experience usually brings the hiring decision down to three very basic factors. 

  1. Grades in school. 
  2. A few part-time jobs and let’s be realistic, I am not going to ask you to tell me about the French Fry machine at McDonald’s or how you upsold a pair of anklets with the latest kicks from Footlocker.
  3. How you present yourself in the interview. 

My vote will be to hire the civilized and generous that demonstrates interview etiquette with no experience. I don’t want to hire the straight A student that acts like a Philistine. Make no mistake, this is not about “class”.  I don’t care to use this word because there are plenty of wealthy people who are jerks and plenty of folks with very little who are generous. This is about “style”. This is about how you carry yourself.      

So here is the HRNasty Interview Etiquette for all demographics and if you don’t have an interview, then you can use this same material on your next first date.  This would be considered common courtesy, a show of maturity and will only gain you points with your presentation layer.   Good manners never go out of style. The other thing that manners show us: It gives me some indication of your level of discipline. You may have manners during the first hour of the interview, but if you are slacking by hour 3, I know it is an act. A lack of manners in an interview gives me the signal that there will be a lack of manners in the workplace and with our customers.  When Mom told you to send thank you letters and hold doors open she wasn’t just worried about embarrassing the family name, she was trying to instill a discipline that would carry you forward in later life. Next time you see Mom, tell her “thanks”.     

Interview Etiquette do’s

  1. Do change your personal voicemail to include your name and a professional message. You want to give confidence that you know how to leave a voicemail message suitable for the work environment.
  2. Do check-in the day before your interview with a confirmation email and reinforce that you are excited about learning more about the company and the position.    
  3. Figure out where the interview is the day before and go visit the company.  There is nothing worse than coming to an interview late.  It puts everyone’s schedule behind and only takes away time that you will have to sell yourself. 
  4. If you are going to be late, call ahead as SOON as you know you are going to be late. Calling 2 minutes before your interview to say you are going to be 10 minutes late is rude. You knew 10 minutes ago you were going to be late.
  5. Avoid sunglasses on your head or resting on the back of your neck.This isn’t a party or a beach. 
  6. Do turn off your cell phone. A call during the interview is a distraction.  Even if you don’t answer the call and let it go to voicemail a ringing cell phone is a distraction and will hurt your “flow”.   
  7. When you are interviewing in person, do stand up anytime anyone approaches you. Take the initiative and introduce yourself. Smile and look them in the eye. “It’s a pleasure to meet you” will never be out-of-place.
  8. Do sit up straight and lean forward when being interviewed. This body language shows that you are interested in the position and interested in the person interviewing you.
  9. Do dress appropriately. It is always better to be overdressed rather than be under dressed.  Pressed and clean collared shirts always wear well.  Even if the dress code is jeans and t-shirt, show respect.  Show you can be put in front of a customer and “represent”.    
  10. Smile during the interview and look your interviewer in the eye. Sincere attention is the best form of flattery.
  11. If you are invited to coffee or lunch during your interviewer, order a modest meal and stay away from alcohol even if everyone else is ordering drinks. Explaining that you want to show respect to the interview process and the interviewers time will never hurt your chances. 
  12. Do bring a pad of paper and pen to the interview. Taking notes is a sign of interest, and shows you will probably take notes during the training period.
  13. Do have questions for every person you talk with. Even if your questions were answered previously, asking the same questions of others is better than no questions.  Not asking questions is a sign that you are not interested in learning more. 
  14. Do open the doors for your host and allow them to go through the doorway first. You are not being the bitch. You are showing respect.
  15. Do send a thank you letter to everyone you talked with. Individual and personalized messages are always better than cc’ing a number of people on an email with 3 short sentences.

Have any more items for Interview Etiquette? Please share below. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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