Interview Etiquette

Interviews, just like other social situations, have a specific etiquette that should be followed in order to have a successful time with your interviewer. It is important to know ahead of time how to conduct yourself in order to best communicate your professionalism.

Before Leaving Home
  • Pick what to wear ahead of time. Set it aside so that it will be clean and ready. Business dress is most appropriate (suit/sports jacket with tie for men; business suits or dresses for women). If in doubt, ask the scheduler what would be appropriate dress for the interview. Be sure your clothing fits and makes you feel good about yourself.

  • Place a copy of your resume, a list of your questions, and any other relevant application materials into a professional looking portfolio, which also contains a pen and paper.

  • Allow plenty of time to arrive to your destination before the interview. Know the exact location of the office by asking the scheduler for specific instructions. If you arrive in the parking lot earlier than ten minutes, you can confirm the location, make a restroom stop, or wait in your car. It is best to arrive in the reception area no earlier than ten minutes before the interview.

  • Silence your phone. If silencing will not prevent alarms or notifications, power it off.

  • Be polite to everyone you meet, whether it's in the parking lot or in the reception area. Unless you have already met your interviewer(s) and established a more personal connection, initially address them as "Mr." or "Ms."

  • Make casual, friendly conversation with anyone leading you to the room for your interview. They might be your future coworker, and may have a say in hiring simply by influence.

  • Shake hands with confidence, and pay attention to your body language. Don't cross your arms, and sit up straight. Place your portfolio or purse on the floor near your chair, not on the table, and avoid having anything in your hands that you could "play with" during your interview.

Arriving for the Interview

Asking Your Questions

  • You always need to have questions to ask in your interview sessions. Interviewers will usually wait until the end of the session to ask if you have any questions. They will likely expect you to have three or four specific, job-related questions. Be sensitive to their time; if time is running short, reduce the number of questions you ask.

  • If the interviewer doesn't give you an indication of next steps, be sure that you ask about them before leaving. What you can expect to hear is something like, "We have several interviews scheduled over the next two days and we will make a decision on Friday as to who will qualify for the second round of interviews." If the interviewer can't provide you with a schedule of next steps, ask if it would be okay for you to contact them on a given day to inquire about the status of the position. This approach is intended to grant you permission to call for an update. If such permission is given, be respectful of the timeline given, and don't call more than once.


Responding to Interview Questions

  • If you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased. If you're uncertain whether you answered the question to the interviewer's satisfaction, simply ask, "Does that answer your question?"

  • If you are asked a question that you honestly don't know how to respond to, you can say, "I don't have an answer for that question right now, can we come back to it?" or "That is a really good question and I don't have an answer for that one." Use this approach sparingly and definitely not more than once during an interview. It should be the rare exception.

  • If at some point you realize that you provided inaccurate information for whatever reason, ask the interviewer if you could go back to that question. If you determine after the interview that you provided inaccurate information, you can explain and provide your revised, correct answer in your "Thank You" note. Only use this approach if your answer was truly inaccurate; this is not an opportunity to bolster an answer that you gave, which was not as good as you would have liked.

  • It's important to take your cues from the interviewer. If you find that s/he is interrupting you or appears to be distracted, this may be an indication that you are talking too much. Make eye contact. If there are multiple people present, make primary eye contact with the person who asked the question, but do address everyone present.

  • Shake hands with and thank the interviewer(s) for their time. As you exit, be sure to thank the receptionist by name and anyone else who greeted you when you arrived.

  • Consider sending a "Thank You" message. Physical cards often speak more powerfully, so prioritize this over an email if possible. A "Thank You" not only shows that you appreciated the interviewers' time, but it also reiterates your interest in the job and illustrates that you are the type of person who goes above and beyond. You might also consider referring to anything in the interview that enhanced your interest in the position.