While an important part of the interview process is indeed the interview itself, it is important that job seekers not underestimate the importance of etiquette. Etiquette can have an enormous impact on an interviewer’s perception of a candidate. In fact, these non-verbal signs may carry as much weight as the quality of the answers you provide. Your etiquette sends a clear message to your interviewer: you are qualified, trustworthy, and, most importantly, professional.
Don’t Just Be on Time, Be Early
It is not enough to be on time; be early. Five to ten minutes is enough; arriving earlier than that is unnecessary in most situations. Being on time reflects your ability to be punctual and illustrates organization, professionalism, and reliability.
If extenuating circumstances are involved, interviewers will generally overlook tardiness and, depending on the nature of those circumstances responsible for your delay, can be quite accommodating. If, however, your tardiness is simply the result of poor planning and organization, it will be a negative reflection of your professionalism as well.
Food and Drink
If you are someone who tends to develop a dry mouth when speaking, accept a glass of water or some other beverage if it is offered. However, bringing a beverage into an interview may be interpreted as unprofessional. Chewing anything (e.g. gum, tobacco) during an interview shows a lack of professionalism. Additionally, remember to brush your teeth before an interview and know that gum or a breath mint is acceptable on your way to the interview.
Avoid Informal Language or Slang
While you should present yourself honestly in an interview, you also should maintain an air of professionalism. Expressions such as “Yea”, “Huh?” or the dismissive “Nah”, should be substituted with, “Yes”, “Excuse me?” and “No, thank you.” Language that may be acceptable with friends and family while relaxing will likely not be appropriate during a job interview.
Do Not Forget to Unplug
Be sure to silence or to turn off all electronic devices during the entire duration of your interview. In addition to this, remember to remove your headset or earphones. Show that your focus is on the job, the interviewer, and the interview.
Your eyes should indicate your engagement in the interview. Make eye contact when you are being spoken to and when you are speaking. Making eye contact with your interviewer shows your attention and understanding. Avoid extreme eye contact. Do not glare, stare, or look too intensively at the interviewer. Acting relaxed and professional will demonstrate that you are comfortable with what you are telling your interviewer.
Be Elbow Conscious
Maintain a relaxed but attentive posture at all times, appropriate to where you are sitting or standing. Slouching, sprawling, or resting your elbows on the table can convey multiple messages, from boredom and a lack of interest or focus to disregard for appearance and professionalism.
Mentioned in Interviewing Basics, the handshake is a form of communication. Make sure that your handshake is firm—not too firm or limp, that you make eye contact with the person with whom you are shaking hands, and that you have an appropriate brief comment in mind, such as “Thank you for your time.” If you are uncomfortable with handshaking, practice with a friend. While the handshake is important in an interview, a confident handshake will serve you in many social situations, especially as you embark on a professional career.