31 August 2022

Interview etiquette: Everything you need to know

At Timberseed, we’re specialists in sourcing the very best graduate talent . We match up passionate people who are looking to grow and flourish with new opportunities in some of the most exciting industries around.

It’s kind of our whole deal.

So if you’ve got an interview coming up, then we’re here to help you score that all-important yes!

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know when it comes to acing your next interview – namely, what makes proper interview etiquette.

Being invited to a job interview is a huge step and you should give yourself a proper pat on the back for getting to this crucial stage.

However, this by no means guarantees you that nice, shiny desk and access to the office espresso machine – unless you’re more of a herbal tea person.

So, keep reading to find out exactly how to give the perfect first impression and how to position yourself above the other candidates.

For more bespoke assistance on your interview etiquette, get in touch with Timberseed today to benefit from one on one coaching and interview prep sessions. 

What is interview etiquette?

Before we launch into the main body of this guide, it’s essential to get a clear idea of what ‘interview etiquette’ is, why it’s so important, and why graduates need to consider it in their job search.

Merriam Webster gives the following official definition of etiquette: ‘the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.’

In other words, etiquette is the traditional method of polite behaviour that is generally expected within society.

Apply the context of an interview and you have a pretty solid definition of it.

What makes it so important?

Etiquette is the way in which we present ourselves and allow someone to get a first impression of us – not just during the hiring process, but all the time.

In the same way that you would make an effort to conduct yourself well when outdoors and in the public eye, the way you behave will set the tone for your interview and can actually affect whether or not you get the job you’re interviewing for.

For example, how likely would you be to hire someone who shows up late, is wearing dirty trainers, and calls you ‘mate’? No thanks… ‘pal’.

Some interviews will naturally be less formal than others depending on the company culture and background, but it’s still key to demonstrate the highest level of interview etiquette, especially as a respectable graduate.

But, don’t worry – we will help you get first-class interview etiquette well in advance of your first interview.

Interview etiquette tips: The dos

Let’s begin with some of the top things you should adopt to make the best first impression.

Rehearse, research and prepare!

Learn everything you can about the company, your prospective employer and the role, including names.

After all, you want to show your prospective employer that you’re dedicated and resourceful enough to have researched the company before the interview.

Nothing’s worse than interviewing someone who hasn’t done any prep, as it shows that they’re not committed and gives off an overall bad impression.

Impressions aside, if you don’t know what the company looks for in a qualified candidate, how will you be able to position yourself as the best candidate for the position?

Make sure you’re informed every step of the way by looking at the job description in detail and checking out the employer’s career page well in advance.

As well as this, you could get in contact with current employees and ask them what their employer looks for and values the most (giving you additional brownie points, too).

Dress to impress

One of the biggest challenges we all face is what to wear for in-person interviews.

First impressions really do matter, and how you choose to dress plays a big role in that, like it or not.

But what if there’s no dress code?

Always play it safe and dress smart, even if there is but you’re just not sure,

It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially for an interview. Give yourself plenty of time to pick out an outfit that fits with the company style from your research and reflects your put-together attitude.

Corporate interviews require more formal wear than more casual interviews, but both will value interviewees who look professional.

Don’t feel that you need to don a full suit – but maybe steer clear of distressed jeans and colourful trainers.

Mind your (body) language

Whilst this isn’t so important for phone interviews, your body language and your actual language reveal an awful lot about you.

Your hiring manager will be assessing the way you walk and the way you talk, so don’t sabotage the interview process before it’s begun by forgetting your manners.

Sitting up straight and maintaining eye contact show that you’re listening to the interviewer and aren’t intimidated by them. It’s okay to be nervous – it’s even expecte – but the less you let it show, the better.

In terms of actual language, swearing is a certain deal breaker. Often, so is slang.

Feel free to drop a few subject-specific keywords to show your knowledge but don’t overdo it. The line between arrogance and confidence is thin!

Stay on topic

Know what you’re going to say and how it will align with what the hiring manager is looking for.

Your knowledge of nuclear science might be very impressive, but not entirely relevant to a role in SaaS – see #1 of the ‘don’ts’ for more information about not rambling.

By having an idea of the type of questions your interviewer is going to ask, you’ll have some extra time to prepare yourself, making it more likely that your answers will be impressive.

It’s very easy to tell when someone is telling a lie or making things up off the top of their head, so make sure you’ve done your research and are ready to answer some questions.

Having said that, appearing as if you’re reciting an internal script won’t do you any favours, so allow for a bit of spontaneity. Balance is key, after all.

Be your best self – confidence is key!

The best way to appear confident is to begin the interview with a firm handshake.

You know the saying that actions speak louder than words?

Handshakes are the perfect form of non-verbal communication that speaks volumes about your personality before you have even begun to open your mouth and impress with your knowledge.

Smiling is another great way to portray your confidence, even if you’re not feeling the most confident.

By having the ability to smile in a stressful situation you will demonstrate your confidence in remaining calm under pressure – a vital skill in the majority of workplaces.

Knowing that you’re well prepared and putting your best foot forward is certain to give you an extra boost of confidence, so don’t underestimate the power of prep work.

If you’re looking to hone your confidence and related skills, Timberseed recruitment offers one-to-one coaching and practical advice to help prepare you for not just your next interview, but for your next big career challenge.

Ask questions – but know the balance between too much and too little.

Many successful interviews end with questions being asked. Asking questions shows that you are truly interested in the job and leaves the interviewer with a lasting impression.

Someone who hasn’t taken the time to develop (or pre-prepare) at least one question won’t seem as invested as someone who has.

Having said that, asking more than about three questions might portray that you’re insensitive to the interviewer’s time, especially if they’re questions you could find out from their website.

Portrait of a woman in an office

Interview etiquette tips: The don’ts

Now, let’s take a look at the interview faux pas and things that’ll put you at a disadvantage during the interview stage.

Don’t ramble on

Keep things as concise as you can without going off on a tangent.

The STAR framework is the most commonly used when answering questions during a job interview because it enables you to give the right amount of detail without wasting time talking about things that aren’t relevant.

This technique covers the situation you had to deal with, the task you were given to do, how you did it, and then what happened as a result, and what you learned from it.

It can be altered slightly to fit different question types, but it works by highlighting specific skills you have and actions you took – often qualities that the employer is looking for.

Don’t fidget or slouch

Although many of us have developed a slightly slouched posture in our lives as a result of overuse of technology and poor seating positions – the joys of modern life – so you should make an extra effort to sit up straight and remain still.

Although it’s usually not intended that way, slouching comes across as rude and suggests disinterest and boredom – two things you definitely don’t want to be portrayed as during an interview.

Instead, sit up straight, look engaged and use your body language to show you’re focusing. Maintain eye contact and keep your legs and arms relaxed.

You’ve got this.

Don’t be late!

If you don’t show up on time for a job interview, it naturally leads to the question: Could you be trusted to make the effort to be on time to work if you get the job? 

Sure, circumstances change, and things get in the way that are often unavoidable, but always leave as early as possible when attending an interview to ensure that, even if something like a late bus or punctured tyre does occur, you still have time to get to where you need to be.

That said, everyone shows up late occasionally, and some things are unavoidable emergencies.

So, as long as you don’t make a habit of it, and the interviewer is sympathetic, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Don’t come underperforming or underprepared

Show gratitude for the chance to interview by being prepared and ready to go as soon as the interview begins.

Wasting the interviewer’s time is disrespectful and is very unlikely to result in you getting the role you’re interviewing for, not to mention that it’s an act of self-sabotage.

Getting to the interview stage is a huge step and one that should be celebrated in itself. However, this is only half the battle. You now have to show that you’re deserving of a place within that company by being appreciative of being invited to interview.

Managers and deputies are among the busiest people within companies, so show some appreciation of their time by attending an interview punctually and being prepared to answer some questions.

Also, it’s important to remember to provide any documentation they’ve asked for and be ready to perform to the best of your ability.

Remember, it’s not just your time you’re wasting by not being prepared.

How can Timberseed help me hone my interviewing skills?

At Timberseed, we offer a range of different practical advice, tips, assistance and one-to-one coaching as well as CV advice.

We’ve got a host of helpful resources about how to get the most out of your CV, understand what makes a good recruiter, and give you insights into a day in the life of an executive search consultant, among others.

And, if you are interested in any roles with Timberseed, simply send over your CV to start the process.

You can attend your next interview confident that you’ve been helped every step of the way by one of the best teams in the recruitment business.

We know exactly how to bring out your talent and give candidates the tools to craft incredible careers.

So if you’re looking for a graduate job that’s both rewarding and lucrative, you’ve come to the right place!

For help and advice with any requirements, get in touch via our contact page to tell us what you’re interested in and how we can help.