It's a basic skill, but practicing good job interview etiquette is essential for upskilling your career. Check out these tricks to see how you can nail the interview and land that dream job.

Mastering Job Interview Etiquette: 9 Essential Rules

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned vet, job interviews will always be a little nerve-racking. You want to put your best foot forward, and that means displaying confidence without arrogance and composure without complacency —this is where etiquette comes in. Etiquette is an unwritten code of conduct at professional events like job interviews. Etiquette includes things like dress codes, body language, when to speak, and asking questions. Understanding the rules of job interview etiquette can put your best foot forward with effective body language and communication.

You’ve already got the technical skills you need to make you a great fit for that position — now you’ve just got to present yourself well. That can mean everything from preparing for behavioral interview questions so you don’t get caught unprepared to researching the company beforehand so that they know you’ve taken an interest. Maintaining effective body language and conveying the right nonverbal cues are part of the process too.

To help you prepare for your big day, we’ve created this job interview etiquette guide. In it, we’ll cover the nine biggest etiquette pointers, ranging from showing up at the right interview time and location to handling lunch or virtual interviews. That way, you’ll be less nervous and better able to showcase your talent and prove to your potential employer that you’re the job candidate they want.

Why Etiquette Is Crucial During the Hiring Process

Like it or not, interviews aren’t just about what you know — they’re about how you conduct yourself too. Having good body language is key to creating a good first impression, and creating a list of questions ahead of time can lead to a smoother interview conversation and help with your interview prep.

Most importantly, understanding etiquette rules prevents you from coming off as rude, underprepared, or insecure. Plenty of talented candidates with stellar resumes lose out on job opportunities because of a simple etiquette mistake–and they never even know what they did wrong. Having a firm grasp of etiquette can give you peace of mind knowing you aren’t unknowingly making any mistakes or coming off the wrong way. Remember that you’re one potential employee out of many that your already-busy manager will be interviewing, so you’ll need to stand out–and in the right way.

The Power of First Impressions and Effective Body Language

Job interview etiquette has a proven impact on your chances of getting hired, so getting it right can mean the difference between an offer and a rejection. These job interview stats prove the point:  

Job Interview stats showing the power of first impressions

What Are the Key Rules of Job Interview Etiquette?

One of the most intimidating things about trying to have proper job interview etiquette is not knowing what your potential employer expects. What’s the company’s dress code? What kinds of questions will they ask? The list goes on. 

While you may not be able to anticipate every part of the interview, just having some basic interview etiquette can go a long way. These job interview etiquette tips are a good place to start. 

1. Research the Company and Role Thoroughly

The most important part of having proper interview etiquette is doing your homework beforehand. One of the first steps in the interview process will likely be asking what drew you to the company, and you won’t look very impressive if you don’t even know what they do.

But just knowing what they do won’t be enough to impress — researching the company’s operations can help you connect with the interviewer and further demonstrate how you can add value to the company. For example, if the company has expanded its operations or has a new product similar to one you’ve worked with, highlighting that in your conversation can prove that you’re invested in its interests and might be the right fit for the team. 

2. Arrive Early and Be Punctual

Almost as crucial for interview success as being prepared is arriving early. The rule of thumb is that if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late — but you don’t want to be too early either. Showing up excessively early can crowd the waiting room and make the interviewer feel rushed, so arrive at the receptionist’s desk 15 minutes before the interview starts. 

Also, some companies may have sprawling offices or confusing layouts, so it can also help to scout out the interview location ahead of time — especially if it’s a lunch interview located somewhere you’ve never been. Ask for directions if you’re able to speak with someone over the phone, but do whatever you can to get the time and place right.

3. Dress Accordingly and Convey Confidence Through Body Language

Dress code and body language are key parts of creating a good first impression, so be sure to wear a professional interview outfit and have good nonverbal communication skills throughout the interview process. The exact dress code will vary depending on whether the position is more casual or professional, but over half of all hiring managers will disqualify an applicant if they don’t have appropriate attire. 70% of interviewers also look down on excessively bright clothing, so keep the color choice reasonable. 

4. Research your hiring manager to find commonalities

Most jobs will require you to work well with others, so proving you’re a social team player can also boost your chances of getting the job. Building a rapport with the manager can demonstrate that, but be careful how you do it. 

It’s a good idea to look up the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile just as you would research the company, but being excessively personal can be seen as invasive. Making some small talk can help as well, but don’t drag it out so long that you waste the manager’s time. Be friendly, but focus on value.

Tips for Using Nonverbal Cues to Project Confidence and Enthusiasm

Part of building a good rapport is using good nonverbal communication skills to demonstrate your confidence and friendly demeanor. That can be a struggle if you’re anxious, but these interview body language tips can help:

  • Maintain a confident posture, sitting up straight, keeping your legs together, and putting your hands on your lap or on the chair at all times. 
  • Give a firm handshake — not limp, but not wrist-crushing either.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the entire interview, and don’t look at yourself during a virtual job interview.
  • Avoid crossing your arms, hunching over, fidgeting, or using your phone, all of which are unwelcoming and awkward. 

If you tend to default to certain body language bad habits, it can help if you accept the water they’ll inevitably offer at an in-person interview. Don’t handle it too much or else you’ll look nervous, but taking an occasional drink can buy you time to get centered.

5. Communicate Effectively and Listen Actively

Good communication skills are a must in almost any industry, so your interviewer will be making sure you have these skills from the start of the interview process. Avoid using filler words like “uh” or “um,” and don’t hesitate to pause long enough to formulate a thoughtful, coherent answer. 

Your interviewer isn’t just evaluating how you talk, though — they want to see that you’re a good listener as well. Don’t interrupt when they’re speaking, but give enough active feedback to make sure they know you’re listening attentively. Incorporating parts of their questions into your responses is a helpful active listening tactic and demonstrates that you’re engaged.

6. Handle Common Interview Questions With Grace

The initial phase of the interview process will contain behavioral interview questions that address the basics first. Some common examples are “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?” — but others like “What have you been reading lately?” have been emerging more and more. 

At first, these questions may feel confusing because you may not know how much information to offer, but answer them with a gracious attitude while giving enough information without going on too long about yourself. Preparing ahead of time helps. The STAR method — Situation, Task, Action, Result — is a helpful approach, as it lets you focus on how you delivered results in the past. When handling behavioral interview questions, be friendly and gracious in your responses but concise enough to get down to business. 

7. Research Industry Standards to Address Salary and Compensation

At some point, that awkward topic will arise — compensation. The company may have a set salary and benefits package in mind and state it clearly, or you may need to inquire. 

You don’t want to be unreasonable and request too much, but you also aren’t working for free, so go into the interview with clear knowledge of average compensation for your position. Factors like location and experience level can also have an impact, so conduct your research accordingly. 

You want to prepare a very specific answer to “What is your expected salary?” interview questions. When asked about salary, the key is to avoid specific numbers. Don’t even feel pressured to give an answer right away. Instead, say you’ll research it and get back to the company. This makes it much easier to negotiate a higher salary. If they press you for an answer, tell them that “salary is not my primary concern when looking at career opportunities. But my expectation is for a competitive salary for this industry in this area.” If you give an actual salary number, you could make yourself a pricey and less appealing candidate. Or you could give a figure that is too low, making it extremely difficult to negotiate a higher salary if you get an offer.

8. Prepare to Handle Challenging Situations and Difficult Questions

You’re bound to face some difficult questions as you go through your interview, and even the most thorough interview preparation can’t get you ready for everything. One particularly challenging question may be why you left your previous employer — and this may be a good time for that water.

Even if you had a negative experience at your previous job, you can likely still say something positive about the time you spent there. Mention how you grew as a professional, and if nothing else, you can just say that it was time to broaden your horizons. Whatever you do, don’t bash your former company, as they may assume that if you did it to your previous employer, you’ll do it to your future employer too. 

9. Express Gratitude and Follow Up directly after the interview

Once the interview draws to a close, remember that a thank you goes a long way. The interviewer took time out of their busy day to give you a shot at the job out of all the potential candidates they had, and that deserves some appreciation. 

Verbally thank your potential employer for the opportunity when the interview ends.  Later that day, write a thank you email to all your interviewers.. While it may seem like you just thanked the interviewer in person, sending your thank you email directly after your sessions is usually most effective because the conversation is still fresh in the interviewer’s minds. You can make an additional follow-up inquiry about their decision about a week later, but much beyond that becomes pushy. 

Elevate Your Interview Performance With Pathrise

Job interviews can be daunting, but the anxiety you feel doesn’t have to keep you from landing that dream job. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are as you look for your next position, and you’ve got all the skills you need to succeed. Only 2% of applicants are given an interview anyway, so you’re already well ahead of the curve. Just practice good job interview etiquette, and you’ve got nothing to fear. And if you need more help, there’s Pathrise.

At Pathrise, we don’t just prepare you for your next job by teaching you tech skills — we help you enter the workforce too. Our career mentors and networking experts give you the coaching you need to find the right fit and nail that interview, and you’ll only have to pay a portion of your income once you get the job. Contact us today, and launch your career into tech. 

Apply today.

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Alex MacPherson

Hi I'm Alex! Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019, I have worked on the growth team for Pathrise helping job seekers hone their skills to land their dream role through curated content on interview prep, resume building and more.

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