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Interview Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

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Did you ever walk out of an interview only to remember a minor detail and worry about it all the way home?

It’s usually the small stuff, like whether you should have said “thank you” before leaving or if you shook the recruiter’s hand with more force than necessary.

We know that sitting down in front of hiring managers can be nerve-racking, but proper interview etiquette can ease the tension.

In this post, we’ll list 18 dos and don’ts for your next job interview. We also go over an overview of the concept as a whole and why it matters.

What is Interview Etiquette?

Interview etiquette refers to how recruiters and candidates conduct themselves, from punctuality to body language.

What Are the Types of Interview Etiquette?

Although interview etiquette falls under the business/professional etiquette category, we can classify it even further based on the situation and perspective.

  • Interview Etiquette for Students: For a student, the focus is on showing that the candidate is ambitious and eager but not to the point that they cross the line of proper conduct.
  • Interview Etiquette for Candidates: Job candidates need to echo the company’s culture in their etiquette to show that they’re a good fit for the role.
  • Interview Etiquette for Interviewer: Skilled recruiters know how to make candidates feel welcome and uphold the company’s image, regardless of which of the popular interviewing techniques they’re using.
  • Interview Etiquette for Hiring Manager: Hiring managers maintain the same interview best practices as recruiters. The difference is that they hold the final decision in their hands and have more insight into the role. That’s why their etiquette usually demands more transparency about what working for a particular department is like.

Why is Interview Etiquette Important?

Regardless of the interview type, proper etiquette is vital. We’re not exaggerating when we say it can make or break your job interview.

Helps You Make a Positive Impression

In one survey, 33% of employers reported that it only took them 90 seconds to make up their minds about hiring a candidate.

That could sound unfair and rushed, but there’s no way to prevent people from making snap decisions.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), expressed a similar notion in his book. He believes recruiters form an impression within ten seconds and spend 99.4% of the interview trying to confirm it.

A savvy candidate uses this to their advantage and tries to win over the interviewer in the first few seconds. This way, they can flip the rest of the interview in their favor.

How? Body language is a key element, but we’ll get to the detailed dos and don’ts in a minute.

Shows Your Professionalism

Good interview etiquette assures employers that the interviewee is a person that can hold the company’s image around clients.

The professional conduct also says that the candidate isn’t a troublemaker and will likely get along well with the rest of the team.

Helps the Interview Run Smoothly

From a candidate running late to unnecessary questions on the interviewer’s part, the time-wasting activities add up. Suddenly, the interview runs for 90 minutes for no valid reason.

Proper etiquette can cut the dead time. That’s not only because both parties will arrive on time. The process should be smooth if recruiters cut to the chase and ask the interviewee the right questions.

Candidates, in turn, should have well-prepared, honest, and concise answers.

Applicants who do their homework save interviewers the hassle of explaining the nitty-gritty details of the job description.

Ensures You Remain in the Running

When the choice comes down to two similar candidates, you’d be surprised at the seemingly trivial stuff that helps shape the hiring decision.

We’re talking about choices as small as irregular eye contact patterns or wearing a bright-colored shirt here. Yes, those are enough to get one qualified candidate out of the race while the other moves to the next round!

What Are the Dos and Don’ts of Interview Etiquette?

From your outfit choice to the firmness of your handshake, there’s a lot you can do (or avoid) to make sure that the interview process is straightforward and doesn’t offend anyone involved.

Interview Etiquette Dos

Dress for the Job You Want

Dressing above your level can reflect ambition, but there’s a catch here.

The situation could get awkward if you make the interviewer feel underdressed. It could come off as arrogance or misreading the room.

To stay on the safe side, some experts recommend checking if a mid-level employee could feasibly wear what you’re wearing. Take a look at group employee photos on the company’s website if you’re not sure what people consider “normal” in your line of work.

Know the Interviewer’s Name

Many companies let you know who you’re interviewing with beforehand via email or phone. If not, call and ask for the recruiter’s name. This will make it much easier when you’re talking to the receptionist before the interview.

You can ask during the interview, but knowing the name and saying it right gives you extra etiquette points. Google the phonetic spelling or look up video pronunciations if you have to.

A common mistake here is going too informal. Unless the recruiter asks for something else, use the last name with a courtesy title.

Turn Your Phone Off

Having a phone go off mid-interview (from either side) can show a lack of respect for the meeting. Even in vibrate mode, the phone can still be a nuisance.

Turn it off, put it in flight mode, or leave it in the car.

Sit Up Straight

Aside from showing that you take this job opportunity seriously, good posture can calm you down. Compared to slouching, sitting up straight lets air flow better into your lungs.

The confidence boost alone is enough. Fake it till you make it, no?

Keep Eye Contact

There’s something about weak eye contact that sets off alarms in our brains—so much so that 70% of employers found it the biggest mistake a candidate can make during an interview.

Force eye contact isn’t any better and comes off as a stare-down. To appear confident yet non-threatening, aim for intervals of seven to ten seconds.

In interviews with a panel, the “one thought, one person” rule wonders. That means maintaining eye contact with one person, finishing a thought, and moving on to the next.

Eye Contact Tips for Showing Confidence

Come Prepared

Preparing beforehand shows the interviewer that you want the job enough to do your homework. Do some research into the role’s duties, but also check the company’s overview.

Who knows? You could come across an aspect or two that need clarification. Remember that candidates can ask questions too!

Say Thanks

Proper interview etiquette calls for showing gratitude.

This rule goes both ways, but as a candidate, you can:

  • Thank the interviewer for the opportunity as you greet them.
  • Thank them again before leaving the room.
  • Send a thank you note (or email) to follow up later.

Shake Their Hand Firmly

The handshake etiquette is pretty straightforward if the recruiter comes up to you in the waiting room and walks you to the interview room.

You get up, look them in the eye, smile, and shake their hand firmly (but don’t squeeze tight!) as you introduce yourself.

Handshake Etiquette: Executive Presence Training

The same goes if you walk into a two-person interview, but the situation gets tricky for panel interviews with more than four people. In this case, it’s okay to wave and introduce yourself to everyone at once.


The need for a genuine smile doesn’t end after you release the handshake. You need to smile occasionally during the interview.

On the recruiter’s part, it shows the candidate that they’re welcome and helps put them at ease. When the candidate smiles, it says that they’re polite and approachable.

The main risk here is coming off as creepy or disingenuous.

To avoid that, pick the right timing. For instance, when you’re talking about a previous project, a subtle smile can reflect enthusiasm.

Accept a Glass of Water

Do you know how it feels awkward when someone visits you at home but won’t take anything to drink? The same applies to job interviews.

Accepting the recruiter’s offer and taking the water can make them feel like good hosts and ease the tension.

As a bonus, you’ll get to take a sip if you need a moment to gather your thoughts or clear your throat.

Interview Etiquette Don’ts

Be Late

Tardiness says you don’t respect the employer’s time.

If you’re five minutes late or less, apologize for the delay without dwelling too much on the details. Running on about how hectic your morning was or how terrible the traffic is nowadays will only waste more time.

An apology after arrival won’t cut it if you’re over five minutes late. It would be wise to call and let the employer know when they can expect you.

You can reschedule if you have to, but be careful when canceling via email.

Be Too Early

While it’s not as terrible of an offense as arriving late, it’s possible to be too early for a job interview.

Recruiters have other tasks to tend to and won’t be able to let you walk in whenever you arrive. This could make them feel awful about leaving you in the waiting area for 30 minutes.

Arriving 15 minutes before the interview hits the sweet spot between tardy and too early.


A slouched posture says: “I don’t care” or “I’m not confident.” Assuming you want neither, the best practice would be to sit up straight.

Only lean forward slightly when you’re making a point or showing an interest in something the interviewer said.

Cross Arms

Some people fold and cross their arms out of habit, but it could come off as being defensive, rigid, or standoffish.

You want to embrace open body language to communicate that you’re interested in what the other person has to say.


Fidgeting annoys recruiters, and it’s for a good reason. It reflects disinterest and can be distracting.

If you do it out of anxiety, try clasping your hands to keep them from wandering. In that case, you’ll have to practice some natural hand gestures. Otherwise, you’ll come off as rigid.

One nifty tip here would be to avoid over-caffeinating the morning of the interview.


Proper job interview etiquette means keeping the atmosphere formal and on topic.

Some small talk is okay, but don’t waste the recruiter’s time by oversharing details about your personal life.

Not only will they hate you for it, but you could let something not-so-positive slip while you’re at it.

Lie of Embellish the Truth

A study shows that interviewees tell an average of 2.19 lies in 15 minutes, but being a common occurrence doesn’t mean it’s moral or in line with proper etiquette.

There’s always the risk of your employer finding out. Even a simple lie would put your integrity into question.

It would also tell the potential employer that you don’t respect the job enough to be honest.


No matter what you do, don’t interrupt a recruiter (or anyone in the office, for that matter) while they’re speaking.

If you have a question, keep it in mind and ask it later.

Let the interviewer know you’ll be taking notes if you tend to lose track of your thoughts.

The key here would be brevity. Jot down a few words and redirect your attention back to the recruiter. Otherwise, you could come off as rude or distracted.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Golden Rule of Interviews?

The golden rule means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and treating them how you’d like to be treated.

Following that rule, the potential employer would welcome the candidate and judge them fairly. In response, the job seeker would be as honest, punctual, and engaged as possible.

What is the First Rule of an Interview?

The first rule to follow for any interview is to come prepared.

Once you know the company’s needs and culture, you’ll have a better idea about the level of formality you need to stick to. That should be the basis of your etiquette.

Wrapping Up

While interview etiquette could feel like a bunch of rigid formalities at first glance, it’s only there to keep both sides respectful, tactful, and open to communication.

To do your part, watch out for your body language, punctuality, attire, and manner of speech.

Don’t worry if you can’t memorize all the tips and rules right away; it’ll take some practice. That’s why pre-interview preparation is key!

Let us know if you still have questions about the dos and don’ts of job interviews.

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