Etiquette: Interview Edition

I hate interviews. Unfortunately, as I recently learned firsthand, getting the job can take as many as five or six of them. For me, that was an incredibly stressful experience. Luckily, I know some helpful people and I am a Google Ninja Warrior. (Join the club. We have T-shirts.) Between these sources, I found some great interview etiquette tips that I would like to share with you, Dear Reader. Nothing revolutionary, mind you, just the basics that everyone should keep in mind. Here we go!

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  1. Punctuality. “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late,” said every band and orchestra director I’ve ever had. The interview begins before you ever get there. Your interviewer is testing your ability to be on time. More than that, all the people interviewing you are incredibly busy people. It’s extremely impolite to keep them waiting. Plan to get to your interview site an hour early. That way if something happens, you’re still on time. If you’re early, go have a cup of coffee and practice a little bit. If something unavoidable happens, and you can’t make it? Don’t stroll in ten minutes late. Call the company, tell them in five words or less what has happened, and offer to reschedule.
  2. Shake Hands. Shake hands at the beginning and end of your interview, as well as everyone you interview with. This means shake hands firmly, looking the other person in the eye and smiling. Introduce yourself. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Amanda.” Not sure if your handshake is up to snuff? Practice on a friend and let said friend be brutally honest. A good, firm handshake comes across as confident and capable, and will immediately set your interviewers at ease. This makes everyone more comfortable in what is a highly stressed situation.
  3. Be Nice to the Administrative Staff. I have heard again and again that most places judge you by how you treat the secretary. If you treat him like he’s not worth your time, you’re fired before you’re hired. When you walk in, treat everyone like you want to be treated. And again, introduce yourself warmly, “Hi, I’m Amanda. I have an interview with Tina Smith at ten o’clock.” This works out for you, too, by the way. Administrative staff knows everything, and have often worked for a company for a long time. Build your inroads now and your life will be so much easier later.
  4. Dress. Dress one step above how everyone there dresses. This shows that you’re taking the opportunity seriously. Look neat, clean, yadda yadda yadda. You know this already.
  5. Say thank you. It’s always polite to use the magic words. Say thank you to everyone you have met with as you leave and then send a thank you card after the interview. Send one to the main person you have interviewed with, and then try to send one to all the side interviewers you had. Include some little detail from the interview to prove you were paying attention. I know we’ve had the great thank you card debate on P-Mag before, but this is different. This is not really to say thank you. This is to prove that you are very interested in this job, you appreciated the chance to interview, and that you made a personal connection with your interviewer. This also makes your interviewer go, “Oh yeah, I liked her,” and she pulls out your resume again, giving you an edge over the competition.


Those are my top five interview etiquette tips. As for nerves, try to think of yourself as interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. After all, they’re trying to decide whether to hire you, but you need to decide whether you like the place. This will help you stay curious, attentive, and engaged, since you won’t feel like you’re being interrogated.

Happy job hunting!

By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

4 replies on “Etiquette: Interview Edition”

Find a friend who has a perfect handshake and practice with them. Then ply them with booze because that has got to be a weird experience between friends. Imagining the awkward is hilarious. Try stepping into the handshake and imagine making your hand into iron bands. One firm “shake” of the hand, introduce yourself, and step back.

Re: no. 5 – I think this is one of those things where you have to know the company culture. This is quite possibly the number one biggest debates in interviewing forums, and I have yet to see a consensus on whether a card or an email (or both) is better form. I’ve seen some HR folks say that a card comes off as clueless and out-of-touch. I worked for awhile as a secretary, and in three months, we got one card from an interviewee – and the hiring manager looked at it like “what the hell is this” and told me to get rid of it.

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