Brushing Up on Professional Development: Interview Etiquette


You’ve probably heard a lot about what to do during an interview. Such nuts and bolts include preparing answers for potential questions you think they might ask you or what kinds of questions you should ask them toward the end of the session. But what we’d like to touch on that isn’t as often emphasized in interview preparation is how to physically present yourself during the actual thing. Follow these interview etiquette tips and you’re sure to rock the next one you attend.

The Handshake 
Many people believe that the beauty of a good handshake lies in the strength of the grip. But this isn’t the only criteria. The key to a great handshake also lies in the length of the handshake as well as the movement. When reaching out to shake your interviewer’s hand, make sure you give a nice, sturdy grip. Afterward, pull the handshake up and down in one motion, and let go.

The mistake that many people make when giving a handshake is they’ll let the amount of contact linger until the other person lets go, and they’ll continuously shake the other person’s hand until they create a tsunami in the water. In other words, the shake will go continuously up and down 3-4 times.

You don’t want to do that. Not only are you sending waves up the other person’s arm, but it’s also just an unnecessary and unconscious act that we all do when shaking someone else’s hand. A sturdy handshake that goes up and down just once and then is let go shows much better confidence and etiquette than a sloppy, overly long handshake.

At the Table
Wait for everyone who is going to interview you to enter the interviewing room. After you’ve shaken hands with everyone, ask where they would like you to sit.

Avoid putting any of your belongings on the table. Place them on the ground next to you unless it’s a padfolio and pen. But even then, it’s more polite to ask if those items are okay before you actually take the initiative of placing them in front of you.

Body Language
Take your interviewer’s lead in body language when they’re talking to you. If they’re leaning forward, lean forward too. This shows they have intent interest in you and you want to be equally interested. If they lean back, lean back too. This shows they’re comfortable and casual with you and you should match that energy. If they’re sitting straight in their chairs, do the same. This shows that they’re probably a bit more on the serious side and you’ll want to reflect that tone. This shows interviewers that you are both on the same page.

Obviously, don’t take this advice too literally. We’re sure you’ve been to interviews where the interviewer was a very great and down-to-earth person who just sat in her chair very straight and rigidly because she values good posture. Whatever the case, this is a rule of thumb to follow that will work in your advantage if you take the subtle hints from your interviewer’s body language and purpose it for the mood of the situation.

Your body language gives a great amount of information about you as a person, especially during a professional opportunity. So use your best judgment, but always present yourself with confidence, strength, and friendliness in the way you carry your body. That means good posture, a smile on your face, and getting rid of any nervous twitches you may want to resort to such as constant leg kicking or hand fidgeting!

If they offer you a beverage…
Unless you’re extremely thirsty because you didn’t have enough time to grab some water before the interview or you’re just very nervous and having some water will help your dry throat, politely decline. We suggest this because sometimes having a beverage on the table can be distracting, or, worse yet, can cause a distraction if you accidentally knock it off the table or are constantly sipping on it between questions.

Try to use your interviewers’ names 
What people normally don’t do during an interview is use their interviewers’ names. We’re not talking about overdoing it—“I think that’s a really interesting question, Nancy.” We just mean sprinkling it modestly throughout. You can especially incorporate this toward the end when they’re allowing you to ask further questions about the position/company, and when you’re on our way out. Thank them each by name with a parting handshake. Normally people are so nervous during the interview and so glad when it’s done that they either forget their interviewers’ names or simply unconsciously don’t directly address them.

We hope you found these tips helpful and that you utilize this etiquette at your next interview!

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