Interview Tips & Etiquette

Interview Tips & Etiquette

In our previous two guides about job interviews, we discussed how to prepare for an interview and practise interview questions as well as what to wear to an interview. Today’s guide is all about the interview day, how to behave and what steps to take once the interview is over.


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Getting Ready

You’ve already picked out the perfect interview outfit, but there are a few final touches before you’re ready. The week prior to your interview, get a haircut to keep your hair looking neat. Cover tattoos where possible for professional environments. Accessorize your outfit minimally and don’t layer scents the day of – choose either scented aftershave or a touch of cologne, but not both.

Dark Navy Suit with striped tie and TV fold pocket square

Dark Navy Suit with striped tie and TV fold pocket square

Arriving At Your Interview

Plan on arriving 30 minutes early to offset any unknowns about traffic, the size of the building or parking. It always takes longer than you think and the last thing you want is to be late or rushed. If you are driving there, hang your jacket on a hanger in the backseat to avoid wrinkling it.

Once you find a parking spot, pop a mint to freshen your breath and review the job listing. Turn your cell phone off or put it in airplane mode. Spend any extra time you have going over the things you feel nervous about – a gap in your resume or common questions that trip you up. Head to the reception desk 10 minutes prior to the interview time.

Once you do walk in the building, focus on the people. Are they smiling? Smile back. What kind of attire are they wearing? What about their shoes? Do not comment but all of these factors can give you a quick glimpse into the culture and stability of the organization. The people who work there are going to be an indication of what working life will be like for you.

Once you arrive at reception, it’s game time. Walk in confidently, smile, and wait for the receptionist to acknowledge you in case they happen to be busy on the phone or finishing a task. Note that many companies do not have a receptionist, and you may be speaking with an office manager. Say hello, and once they do acknowledge you, introduce yourself like this:

“Good morning/afternoon, my name is (insert your name), and I’m here for an interview at (insert time) with (insert name of interviewer).”

At this time, follow the receptionist’s instructions. They might ask you to wait for a moment, fill out some paperwork, or they may escort you to a meeting room. In many cases, they will ask if you would like something to drink. As a general rule, the correct answer is to politely decline unless your throat feels dry, in which case ask for plain water. Drink from a glass if you are provided with one in addition to a bottle.

Recruiters checking the candidate during job interview

Recruiters checking the candidate during job interview

Interview Demeanour

If your interview is being conducted in a meeting room and the interviewer is there, stand until you are offered a seat or until the receptionist leaves the room. If the table is in a boardroom, pick a corner spot next to the end of the table, but never sit in the head chair. It’s a wise idea to sit at the side of the table so you can see the door. Once the interviewer comes in, stand, introduce yourself and shake their hand with a firm grip and shake twice. Wait for them to be seated before you sit or until they ask you to be seated.

If you are being escorted to the room and the interviewer is already there, smile, say hello and introduce yourself in the same fashion as described above. It’s a wise idea to refer to them as Mr. or Ms. unless otherwise instructed. If it is a group of people interviewing you, make the rounds and repeat their name back to them in an effort to ensure you remember it.

Once seated, pull out a copy of your resume and offer it to them.

Now it’s time to listen.

Interviews come in a wide range of formats now, from all-day to panels to personality tests and case studies. Typical, one-on-one interviews come in three styles.

  1. The most common interview is conversational where the entire meeting is simply a conversation about the job and your experience, with room to work your questions in.
  2. The second type of interview is a more formal Q&A where the recruiter will ask you specific questions and wait for your response. Your questions would be saved for the end.
  3. The third and more contemporary style of interview is a rather unusual method that’s popular in the tech industry and with younger companies. In this interview, you will be asked a series of unusual questions, some of which may not have a proper answer but are designed to evaluate your thought process and rationale.

Regardless of what style the interviewer chooses, your goal is simply to show them why you’re the right person for the job. To prepare for all these different scenarios, you should read this Interview Questions & Preparation Guide.

Tone, Body Language & Grammar Matter

Body language speaks volumes, and you want to project confidence. Sit upright in your chair; the easiest way to do so is to not touch the back of your chair. Your body language has to communicate that you are alert, happy to be here and ready for the questions, so avoid leaning back in your chair, crossing your arms, or fidgeting. Maintain eye contact and nod as the interviewer speaks to indicate that you understand.

Be sure to answer their questions in a friendly tone, and try to be structured. A smile always goes a long way. It’s vital that you use proper grammar, don’t curse or use slang and that you are articulate, yet concise. Be honest and if you don’t know the answer, tell them that but offer an example of how you would go about finding the answer.

At some point during the interview, they will most likely ask if you have any questions. The best way to navigate this portion of the interview is to ask questions that show your interest. Make sure you prepare for these questions ahead of time, and keep a list in your portfolio if it makes it easier. The question “What kind of skills does a person need to be successful in this role?” is always a good one that allows you to then showcase how you are a good fit, unless the topic has already been thoroughly covered in the interview. An alternative could be “What projects would the person in this role need to jump into immediately?”

Do not bring up salary or vacation time, unless they ask you about it, and if they don’t you can find out once they make an offer of employment.

If the interview is being conducted by someone who is a general employee of the company, often asking how they enjoy the work is an excellent way to see the morale within the enterprise. You’d be surprised how often they will drop hints that you should run or give you very specific examples of why they love it and you will too. If it is a team member, ask what the work on the team is like or what kind of person best fits the team.

Young man have job interview.

Young man at a panel job interview.

Departing from The Interview

A job offer on the spot rarely occurs, so ask what the next steps are and how soon you can expect to hear back from them. Ask if there is anything you can send them in the meantime. Thank them for their time, shake their hand, look them in the eye and leave with your head held high. Go straight to your vehicle and depart. This isn’t the time to visit the coffee shop next door or talk to the receptionist.

Follow Up The Right Way

In most cases, recruiters will either give you a set time you can expect to hear from them, or they’ll instruct you that you’ll only hear back from them if they decide to proceed. It’s important to pay attention to what they say. Post interview, there are two things to consider: the follow-up, and your response.

If they tell you that they have a few more interviews to do, and it will be a few days, wait a week before following up. If they say we’ll make our decision by tomorrow, wait two days. If they say they only plan to call you if they want to proceed, you can still follow up provided it’s done so delicately.

One of the safest methods of following up is to send a hand-written correspondence card on your stationery. Simply thank them for their time, remind them you’re very interested in the opportunity and finish by saying you’ll follow up by phone next week if you haven’t heard from them. Handwritten notes shows them you are willing to go the extra mile, but they do take time to arrive and meanwhile a competitor may have already thanked the interviewer. In this day in age, unless it is a very traditional company or you don’t have your interviewer’s email address, default to a thank-you email.

When you finally get the call

When you finally get the call

The Response

When the call does come, or they answer the phone when you call them, there are three responses you’re going to get.

  1. A rejection
  2. Request for further information
  3. A job offer

A Rejection

It’s always hard being rejected. No one likes it, but it happens to the best of us. Try to think of it as one door closing so another can open. If you’ve gone through your short list of jobs, now is the time to expand, but it’s also an opportunity to learn. If they say they found another candidate, now is your chance to ask them if they have any advice for you. This might mean letting you know something you can improve on for future interviews or it might mean getting information on how you can build your skill-set and reapply in the future. They’ve already said no at this point so don’t be shy asking them for candid advice.

Remember always remain polite and friendly, there may be another job opening shortly and rather than going to an entire round of interviews, they might consider you if you are the number two on the list. In any case, respond politely and gratefully as so not to burn any bridges.If they liked you, they might reach out when another opportunity opens.

Request for Information

In this case, it might mean moving onto the next step in the interview process, providing documentation such as a driver’s abstract or credit report, or it might mean clarifying something you said in the interview or wrote on your resume. When you do receive a request for more information, the process will stand idle until you furnish it. If you tell them it will be on their desk by five o’clock, make sure it’s there by 4:30. This shows you are a man of your word, and you adhere to deadlines. If you are unsure about what they are requesting or don’t feel comfortable sharing the information, you can ask for more detail.

Accepting the Job

Ideally, this call is a celebration. A proud moment where they announce you’re the man for the job. It’s vital you appear thankful and honored but you don’t want to cheer or look too excited. This is a business after all. Remain professional, thank them for the opportunity and ask them how to proceed. They may want to send you a written offer (and if they don’t mention this, ask for one), or they might simply ask you to show up at 8 am on Monday. The offer is only conditional at this point, and you still have to accept it. Be sure to look it over carefully and only accept it if you can be happy with the terms of the contract for the foreseeable future.

If the income is less than you expected, now is the perfect time to negotiate, and chances are they’ll expect that. Make the case for why you are an exceptional candidate, show them how you can make them more money, save them money, make their job easier, or will make their customers happier. Then ask for the amount or benefit you want; you may find vacation days to be more valuable. This is better than just telling them you have another job offer for X salary, unless that is true. If it is, tell them you prefer this job if they can match the offer. If you are specific, chances are you can increase your salary if they see the return on investment. You never want to seem arrogant or just interested in the money.

If you choose to accept the offer, do so with humility and pride. If you don’t, be polite and thank them again for their time.

Dark Flannel Suit with Silk Tie & TV Fold Pocket Square

Dark Flannel Suit with Silk Tie & TV Fold Pocket Square

Final Tips

Give references upon request

Most employers will ask for references, but you don’t have to feel compelled to give them a list unless they ask for it. What’s vital is that you speak with the people you wish to list as your reference and confirm with them that they are willing to give you a positive referral.

Dress for success on your first day

Unless they specifically instruct you to wear certain apparel, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. You saw what your interviewer was wearing, and you may have observed a few employees, but the last thing you want is to find out that you work in the only department that doesn’t wear denim, or you have a meeting scheduled later in the day. If you are overdressed for the position, they’ll let you know, and you can dress down a bit the following day.


What tips do you have for navigating the job market? Tell us about your best interview or your worst.

This guide was created by Sven Raphael Schneider & J.A. Shapira

Article Name
Interview Tips & Etiquette
An in-depth guide to help you ace any job interview so you get the job you've always dreamed of.
2 replies
  1. Terry says:

    An outstanding and helpful series, Sven. It should be required reading for discussion in any career preparation programme!

  2. Khulekani Ngcobo says:

    Thank you these tips and etiquette are the best and the videos are professional.

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