There are plenty of questions (and articles, too) about how to dress for an interview. Hand in hand with that topic is how you should act while in a job interview.
I’ve been fortunate to interview plenty of people in my career. You’ll read articles about how crucial the first impression is, and it definitely is important. But for me, the first impression is not the deciding factor on whether I want to hire someone or not. I’m not done with that decision until well after the interview is over.
The people that tend to get invited to an interview are the people who have communicated that they can do the job. They meet the minimum qualifications of the job, and I bring them in to find out if, frankly, I want to work with them.
Here’s a critical point that every interviewee should understand: The job interview is not necessarily a place to prove that you are competent; rather it’s a place to prove that you will be a great fit on the team. This is where your interview attitude and manners come in.
Interview attitude is a funny phrase, but we all know we are (hopefully) on our best behavior in an interview. When I interview I tend to be a little more high energy. I smile more, and I’m less confrontational in a discussion. My attitude is more appeasing, and I am not in analysis mode as much as I’m in sales mode.
Have you ever thought about your interview attitude? If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought about how unfair it seems that in an interview you are the person with the least amount of power in the room. That’s not a fun place to be, but I’d like to suggest some things you can do to have more control, which will in turn bolster your interview attitude.
The job interview is not necessarily a place to prove that you are competent; rather it’s a place to prove that you will be a great fit on the team. This is where your interview attitude and your manners come in.
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Since by the time you get to the interview stage it’s assumed that you can perform the job duties, you should come to the interview prepared to demonstrate how you will fit in with the team. This of course doesn’t mean that you won’t need to talk about your experience, education, and skills, and how they tie to the job you’re interviewing for. But frequently, once you get to the interview stage, what you’re most closely being watched on (and judged on) are soft skills. Things like communication skills, problem-solving skills, time-management skills, teamwork skills, etc.
Also—your personality is going to be sized up by the interviewers. Which is why manners and attitude are so incredibly important at this stage.
I hope you realize that the minute you park your car, or get close to the interview’s location, you have started your interview. There will likely be employees you meet or bump into in the hallway, at the reception desk, etc. Said employees will likely size you up to see if you’d be a good fit. So know this: your manners matter before you even walk into the actual interview location.
Interview attitude and manners matter. When you greet an interviewer, greet them with a firm (but not too firm) handshake. And make eye contact when you extend your hand out for a shake. Avoid extending a limp hand. You don’t want to be remembered as “the person with the dead fish handshake.” The interview will essentially start off on the wrong foot if your handshake is limp. The interviewer might be so unimpressed by your handshake that they don’t remember anything you say in the beginning of the interview. And a limp handshake could put an immediate dent in your personal/career brand.
In your interview make sure you have (and maintain) appropriate eye contact. Not creepy, non-blinking eye contact, but warm, direct eye contact that will make the interviewer feel comfortable with you. Maintain good eye contact throughout the interview, and make sure your face registers such emotions as interest and passion (for both your industry, the job you’re interviewing for, and the company you’re interviewing with).
Of course, in a video interview you won’t need a handshake, but you’ll certainly need to make eye contact. Instead of talking to your monitor (which feels like the natural thing to do), talk to your camera. That way the people watching the video interview can have the same sense of eye contact as if you were looking them in the eye.
When the Interview Ends
As you leave the interview, make sure you mind your manners. Say goodbye to each person in the room. Shake each of their hands again, and make eye contact when you do so. Smile. Mention how much you enjoyed learning more about the company and the role. Mention how excited you are by the prospect of joining the company. Leave your business card, and asks for business cards from each interviewer (so you can send thank-you emails once you get home, or the next day). Say goodbye to the receptionist or guard, and if appropriate, hold the door for others employees who might be exiting when you are. The interview doesn’t stop once you leave the room. Consider yourself in the interview until you’re out of sight from the interview location.
The job search interview is tricky and stressful. If you focus on the right things and have the right attitude in an interview, you can help decision-makers understand why they need you on their team. In the past, I’ve rejected candidates who seemed smarter or more qualified, and instead gone with candidates who would be a better culture fit. Why? Because I knew that I’d be able to teach the great culture fit candidates the hard/technical skills they’d need to be successful. How do you demonstrate you are a great fit? In part, by having the right attitude and paying close attention to your manners.
Additional Interview Resources
- Mastering the On-Site Job Interview: A Guide to Company Visits
- How Soon Should You Follow Up After a Job Interview?
- Job Interviewing Dos and Don'ts for Jobseekers
- 13 Common Interview Questions & Their Impressive Answers
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