Job interview etiquette is a set of rules one should accept and follow in every single interview they go to, or lead. It applies to both job applicants and the hiring managers. We will have a look at the basic etiquette on the following lines. Bear in mind that if you apply for a job in a specific region of the world, such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, or China, you should do additional research, because what is generally accepted in Western world can be considered highly inappropriate in one of these countries, and contrariwise. Let’s have a look at the rules.


Come on time – or few minutes earlier.

If you think that arriving five minutes late for your interview is okay, you will have to forget the thought altogether. Interviewers have a schedule for the entire day. Once you are late, you interfere with their plans, and they may have to skip one or two questions they wanted to ask you, or even reschedule your interview, something you for sure do not want to happen.

Check the traffic connection to the place, plan your route ahead, or even go there one day before the interviews, to see the place and how long it takes you to actually get there, in real traffic of the day. You cannot really afford to be late for such an important meeting.


Turn your cell phones off.

To answer a call, or just to let your phone vibrate in your pocket while someone interviews you for a job, shows how little the meeting means to you. What is more, the interviewers can take it personally, thinking that you do not respect their work and the time they reserved for the meeting with you.

Note: Interviewers in small companies, or in agencies, can have their phone on. This is because they may get a call from one of the applicants who is scheduled to interview for a job after you. This should not happen in a big company though. A secretary should take care of such a call. Anyway, from a position of a job seeker, you should turn your cell phone off before entering the room for the interviews.


Listen to the interviewers.

Many applicants think about something else while they interview for a job, or they answer a different question than the one we asked them. Many people will interrupt the interviewers in the middle of a sentence, and some job applicants actually try to lead the interviews. None of that should happen to you, at least if you really want to succeed and walk away with a new job contract.

A good employee is a good listener–and it doesn’t matter whether we speak about interview for a leadership role, or one for a blue collar job. Focus on the hiring manager, and on every word they say. Not only does this belong to the basic interview etiquette–it is the only way how you can actually have a real chance of getting hired at the end.


No yawning please.

It doesn’t matter if you spent all night in the club, or if you were studying some premium interview answers, while preparing for this day. Yawning is considered a sign of tiredness, and it suggests a little interest on your side. If you feel like yawning, go and grab a coffee or a cup of green team before the start of your interview, or anything else that works for you.

And if you yawn anyway, if you can not suppress the urge, apologize for doing that, and explain that you spent your night preparing for one of the most important meetings of your life–to exaggerate a little, of course.


Keep some distance, avoid personal questions.

Unless you are a communication expert, and are absolutely sure that it is appropriate to ask a personal question (question about family, hobbies, etc), you should avoid such questions altogether. This rule applies to both interviewers and job candidates.

What is more, you should know that some questions can be considered illegal by law (check illegal interview questions for more info). Asking job candidates (or the interviewers) about their race, religion, or marital status, you risk a legal action. In 99 cases of 100 nobody will sue you, but still–it is not good for a reputation of your company, and for your personal reputation, to ask such questions.

Handshake also belongs to job interview etiquette, illustation of a handshake of man and woman

Shave and take a shower.

The interview is an important meeting (at least it should be important for you, and if it is not, you rather stay at home and waste neither your time, nor the time of the hiring managers).

Try to look good, take a shower, shave. Do not overdo it with perfume or other cosmetics. Good choice of clothes won’t win you a job contract, but you should still try your best to look good and professional. And of course to feel good–you shouldn’t wear a tight dress in which you find it difficult to breathe, just because you look good in it. Your words matter for the interviewers much more than your looks (unless you apply for a modeling job of course), and you should keep it on your mind while preparing for this meeting.


Let the employer to lead the meeting.

You are in the room primarily to listen, and to answer the questions of the interviewers. While it is good and even advisable to ask a question from time to time, it is not appropriate to ask a huge number of questions, at any point of the interview.

Because they have a certain time allocated for the meeting with you. They probably plan to interview other candidates on the same day. And if you ask them twenty questions, it may easily happen that they ask you only five questions, while they planned to ask you fifteen. Sure, you may have some questions and each interview is a dialogue, but you should let the hiring manager lead the meeting, and respect their position in the room. One or two questions are good, but overdoing it will cause you more harm than good.


Avoid illegal, racist, and other inappropriate questions.

Keep it professional. Whether you are an interviewer, or a job candidate, you should ask only about things that really matter for the job. We live in a world of equal opportunities, and if you discriminate someone with a question, it can easily backfire against you.

Sure, one can find a lot of stories online, and many people would prefer if hiring managers were more honest, and they do not have a problem talking about their cultural background, or some sensitive issues. Nevertheless, rules are the rules, and you should not break them just because you do not find some topic an occurred one to discuss.

Job interview is not a date.

At the end of the day, interview is a meeting of two people (or more people). It is perfectly fine to wear something you look attractive in, but you should never suggest a meeting outside of the interviews, and if another party suggest such a meeting, you should politely refuse their proposal.

It would be naive to think that interviewers and job candidates never date each other. It does happen–just like it happens in any other situation when two people meet, and interact with each other.

But you should wait until the end of the hiring process. If you really like the person, you can give them a call and ask them for a date–but do it only after you’ve heard a final verdict on your job application…


Continue your preparation for the big day:

  • Most common interview questions – Great answers to fifteen most common interview questions. Learn how to impress your interviewers, and prepare an answer to each of the typical questions.
  • How to overcome interview nerves – Feeling nervous before the meeting with the hiring managers? Check our 4 simple strategies and learn how to overcome your anxiety, and show your very best on the big day.
  • How to conduct interviews  – Advice for employers, applicable mostly in small business environment. Learn how to choose the best person for the job.
Matthew Chulaw
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