17 Job Interview Etiquette Tips To Help You Land A Job

By Maddie Lloyd - Mar. 14, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

So you have an interview for a position where you’re an ideal candidate. You have all the qualifications and experience the company is looking for — but when it comes time for the interview, you show up 10 minutes late wearing sweatpants and you look at your phone the whole time.

Think you’ll get the job? Chances are…probably not.

Knowing proper job interview etiquette is a key factor in how successful you are in an interview. Every part of a job interview is a test — what you wear, the kind of body language you use, how you greet the interviewer, etc., all affect the outcome of the interview.

Whether you’re a first-time interviewer or a seasoned professional, it’s never a bad idea to get up to speed on your job interview etiquette.

Here are 17 job interview etiquette tips to help you make the best possible impression on employers during your next interview.

1Practice

No matter what position you’re interviewing for, there are several questions you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear at a job interview, such as “Why do you want to work for our company?” “What are your greatest strengths?” or “What motivates you?” just to name a few.

Because there are some questions that you’re definitely going to encounter, it makes sense to prepare for them. Do some research, practice in front of a mirror, or practice with a friend. You’ll be happy you did.

Lucky for you — we’ve compiled the 50 most common interview questions and how to answer them all in one place. You’re welcome.

2Do Research on the Company and the Position Beforehand

Not many hiring managers will be impressed if you go into the interview, sit down, and say “So, what is it that your company does again? Sorry I just can’t remember.”

Take a look at the company’s website and Google their CEO and the person who would be directly supervising you. Find out who your interviewer is going to be and review their LinkedIn.

During the interview, bring up information you found about the company or your interviewer — but make sure it’s appropriate. Try to avoid saying things like “Oh, I saw on your Facebook that it’s your dog Muffin’s birthday. Tell him ‘Happy Birthday’ for me, okay?”

Instead, mention details about the success of the company or the interviewer, such as “I saw that the company has expanded into a few new markets over the past three years.”

Mentioning the company’s successes during the interview will show them that you’re interested in working with them and took the time and effort to do a little research to better understand their work.

Plus, hiring managers and recruiters will almost always ask “what do you know about our company?”

3Pay Attention to Your Body Language

How you use your body to communicate can say a lot about you. For example, sitting with your arms crossed could send a message that you’re closed-off or defensive, and picking your nose sends the message that you really just have no idea how to act in social situations.

Make sure that what you’re communicating with your posture and stance gives off a good impression. Sitting up straight and looking your interviewer in the eye will show that you’re confident and calm — even if you’re extremely insecure and secretly having a panic attack.

Also, you should always stand up whenever someone else walks into the room. Staying seated will make you look unprofessional and inconsiderate.

4Dress for Success

Ah, the much loved (and equally hated) saying that’s been burned into your brain since the long past days of high school. As much as we all love to scoff at “judging a book by its cover,” your appearance is the very first impression you’re going to make on an employer, so you’ll want it to be a good one.

Leave the ugg boots and baseball caps at home. Opt for professional attire, and simple makeup and jewelry. When interviewing for a professional position, dress in business attire. If you’re applying for a more casual position, like a store or a restaurant, you should still aim to be neat and well-groomed.

On the other hand, it is okay to wear your favorite pair of batman underwear if it makes you feel more confident. Just make sure they stay underneath your fancy clothes.

5Come Prepared With All of the Necessary Materials

You should always come prepared to an interview.

Always go to an interview with a padfolio and pen so you can take notes, several copies of your resume, a business card (if you have them), a list of references, questions for your interviewer, and samples of your work.

There are some things that you should definitely leave behind when going to an interview. You probably shouldn’t show up 15 minutes late with Starbucks. Leave your phone behind or turn it completely off, and don’t bring anything to eat or drink — if you’re on the verge of extreme dehydration, the interviewer will probably offer you something to drink.

On that note…

6Take the Water That They Offer You

When you get to an interview and they offer you water or any other beverage, just take it, even if you’re not thirsty — it will serve as a prop and help buy you time when formulating an answer to a difficult question.

People also feel good about themselves when they do a small favor for someone, so allowing a receptionist (or the interviewer) to get you a cup of water will help them associate good feelings with you.

Also, if you’re really anxious, taking a pause to take a sip of water can help you center yourself and calm down.

7Ask the Interviewer Questions

A job interview is not only a chance for you to sell yourself to employers. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the company and figure out if the position is right for you. You should always go to a job interview with a sturdy list of questions in your back pocket.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, not asking questions would make you seem uninformed or uninterested. Ask questions about the type of work that the position requires, the company culture, and the typical career path of someone in this position.

For a full list of questions to ask employers during an interview, check out this article.

8Get There Early

When it comes to job interviews — if you’re not there early, you might as well be late. An interview is stressful enough on its own without having to rush to get there on time — try to get to your job interview 15 minutes before it’s scheduled to begin.

Before you leave for the interview, figure out where you’re going, how long it takes to get there, and give yourself plenty of time — and don’t forget to take traffic into account.

Giving yourself extra time gives you the chance to go to the restroom and freshen up, and it also gives you the chance to review your materials and practice your answers one last time.

9But Not Too Early

Another pet peeve of interviewers is turning up way too early. There may be limited space in the waiting area for all the job candidates, and it’s awkward sitting alongside your competition for a long period of time anyway.

Plus, it puts a feeling of undue pressure on the interviewer that you’re waiting for them, which might make them feel as though you’re trying to rush them or make them feel guilty for wasting your time.

You can feel good about yourself for arriving at the right place too early, but hold off from actually entering the building. If you arrive any earlier than 15 minutes before your interview, practice a few of these pre-interview relaxation tips.

10Introduce Yourself With a Firm Handshake and Solid Small Talk

Once you’ve gotten to the interview, introduce yourself to the receptionist (if there is one) and let them know who you are and who you’re scheduled to meet with.

When you meet your interviewer, introduce yourself and give them a firm handshake — no fingers-only, limp fish handshakes here — but also try not to squeeze so hard you cut off the circulation to their hand.

Be prepared for a little small talk, but don’t overdo it and start rambling about things the interviewer doesn’t care about. Follow their lead and let them guide where the conversation goes.

11Learn and Remember Names

Before you show up for your interview, double-check the name of the person you’re meeting. That way, you don’t have any awkward interactions with the receptionist when they ask who you’re interviewing with. It makes you look unprepared at best and apathetic at worst.

If you’re meeting with multiple people, get a handle on all their names before you go in. Try creating a mnemonic device or some other memorization strategy to keep the names straight in your head.

As the interview process proceeds, make a mental (or a written note, if the timing is appropriate) of any people you meet or important individuals the interviewer mentions. You want to seem like a person who only needs to be told something once, and you’ll need those names for writing thank-you emails after the interview.

12Smile and Be Positive

We all know that interviews are high-stress, anxiety-inducing situations, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put on a happy face and act like you’re thrilled to be there.

A smile shows that you’re someone who can get along with fellow employees and that you have a good attitude. So even if happiness is the least of the emotions you’re feeling, you should just fake it.

Smiling during an interview will give the impression that you’re confident, well-prepared, and approachable. Freezing up and looking nervous or grouchy will make interviewers think that you’re uninterested or don’t want to be there.

13Use the STAR Method

The STAR method is a strategy for answering behavioral interview questions that ask you to describe what you did in previous professional situations. It stands for situation, task, action, result.

Basically, you want to tell a coherent story where you briefly sketch the scenario, describe your role in it, discuss what you did in the situation, and finish by stating how things ended up.

This might seem like a general interview tip, and not directly related to etiquette. However, good etiquette means being a good conversational partner, and the STAR method is designed to make your interviewer more interested in you.

Think of stories that relate to major interview question topics, like conflict, challenges, accomplishments, time management, customer service, collaboration, etc. That way, you’ll always be prepared with an interesting anecdote.

Compare these two answers to see what we mean when we say the STAR method is an essential part of good interview etiquette:

  1. Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor at work.

    Bad Answer

    When I don’t agree with a manager, I usually try to tell them why I think my idea works better. Most of the time, we can compromise and find a solution that makes everyone happy. I think that working together is important, so I try not to get too stuck on my own ideas but listen to everyone around me.

  2. Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor at work.

    Good Answer

    At my last job, we had a big social media marketing campaign coming up, and my supervisor was budgeting around 60% of the funds to paid Facebook advertising. I felt that was too high, as our target demographic reached us through Instagram 40% of the time and through organic searches 20% of the time. I suggested that we divert more towards Instagram and new tangential avenues like TikTok, where the ROI and potential upside were a lot higher.

    She heard me out and explained that part of the reason for the increased Facebook push was to drive our historically-low engagement on that platform. However, she agreed that 60% was probably too much, and lowered that to 50% of our budget and moved the remaining 10% towards emerging platforms as I suggested.

While the first answer has the right qualities in mind, it doesn’t sound all that impressive or specific. Etiquette means respecting your interviewer’s time, so pack as much relevant information into your answers as you can.

14Don’t Share Too Much

This goes from the start of the interview, when the hiring manager prompts you with “tell me about yourself,” to the very end, when the interviewer asks if there’s anything else they should know about you.

It’s good to give a little personality and background outside of work, but don’t go into great detail about any of that stuff. If the recruiter or hiring manager is interested and invites further conversation on a topic, by all means, give them what they want. But err on the side of people not really being too interested in your personal life.

In a similar vein, don’t ever go too negative, even when the interviewer tosses you a question that baits negativity, like “why did you leave your last job” or “tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor.”

Don’t ever talk smack about your former boss, coworkers, or company. The interviewer only has your word to go on, and they can’t be blamed for wondering whether you were the problem in the given situation and not the other way around.

15If You’re Having a Lunch Interview, Remember Your Table Manners

Doing a lunch interview allows potential employers to see first-hand your communication skills, how you’ll conduct yourself at a meal with clients, how you handle accidents and treat the wait staff, and above all — your table manners.

Even if you were raised by wolves, look up some how-to videos on how to eat at a restaurant like a proper human being. That means not diving head-first into your meal, no picking your nose, and please, for goodness sake, chew with your mouth closed.

16Wrap It Up

Once your interview starts wrapping up and you’ve asked the interviewer all of your questions, let them know that you think you’d be a great fit for the position and that you’re excited about the possibility of working with the company.

Ask your interviewer about the next steps in the hiring process and when you can expect to hear back from them, and finally, thank them for their time.

And while we’re on the topic of thank you’s…

17Follow Up the Interview With a Thank-You Note

One of the most important etiquette rules for job interviews is to always write a thank you note. Taking the time to express your gratitude not only shows that you appreciated the interview, but it also gives you the chance the remind them of your interest in the position.

Along with expressing your thanks for the interviewer’s time and the opportunity to learn about the company, use your thank-you note to tell employers why you think you’re the best candidate for the job.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that your interview with a company is your sales pitch for why you’re the best fit for the job, so you should be focused on selling yourself the entire time.

Knowing all of the rules for the best job interview etiquette is a great start to impressing employers and getting the job.

Be prepared, maintain confidence, and the job is in the bag.

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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