You probably know the basics of what to say and how to act during a job interview, i.e. dressing appropriately and not texting. But if it’s been a while since you’ve had an interview, you may need a refresher. Additionally, you may not know the less obvious etiquette expected of you during an interview, or the things that you can do to stand out from your competition.
The TAI team has compiled a list of dos and don’ts that you can refer to when you’re preparing for your next interview. While our list is not exhaustive, it provides a detailed overview of how you can present yourself in the best way, impress hiring managers, and secure a job offer.
- Create two versions of your career overview. In almost any job interview, in any format–phone, in-person, group, email–you’ll be asked to speak about yourself and your background. Stuck on where to start? Speak about your current position first because that’s probably where you gained the most relevant experience for your target job. We recommend that you prepare a short and long version of your career overview, or a 5-minute and 10-minute version. Many hiring managers will ask you explicitly to provide a brief and/or detailed overview, so it’s crucial that you have both of them. If they don’t specify give them the short version, and let them know that you can elaborate if needed.
- The basics. You’ve heard these before, but we’re repeating them because they can mean the difference between hiring managers passing on you or making you an offer. In no particular order, make sure you do the following: Make your handshake firm. Make eye contact with everyone with whom you’re interviewing. Dress professionally–even if the company has a casual dress code. Arrive 10 minutes early. Arriving earlier can frustrate your interviewers because they may be finishing other tasks or gathering last minute paperwork. Bring a notepad and pen to take notes, and an extra copy or two of your resume.
- Ask good questions. When your interviewer asks you if you have any questions, do not say “no.” Having no questions can make you look uninterested in the position and even unintelligent about job interview etiquette. Examples of questions that will impress hiring managers include: What are the top 2-3 priorities that the person in this role needs to focus on? What are you expecting the person in this role to accomplish within the first three months of the job? Can you describe your company culture? What are the biggest challenges that a person in this role could face? What do you like best about working here?
- Research the company. Visit the company’s website and social media pages, as well as the LinkedIn profiles of everyone with whom you speak before, during, and after your interview. Know the company’s mission, values, and any recent accomplishments (often found in a blog or press release page, ex. maybe the company was mentioned in a major news outlet).
- Ask for next steps. After you’ve asked your questions about priorities, company culture, etc., ask this: “What is the next step in your process?” or “Can I provide you with any additional information you need to make your decision?” Asking for the next step makes you look interested in the position (remember, you don’t have to take the job if it’s offered to you) and easily accessible if additional information is needed.
- Speak negatively about your current or former boss or coworkers. Some hiring managers will ask “trap” questions just to see how you’ll answer. For example, you may be asked “What kinds of people do you find it difficult to get along with?” to see if you’re someone who vents or gossips about others. If you take that question as an opportunity to complain about your boss, you probably won’t be offered the job. Rather, use that question as an opportunity to talk about what you’ve learned from difficult working relationships. Put the focus on you, what you’ve learned, and how you can use what you’ve learned to contribute to the company.
- Ramble. Give weak handshakes. Wear perfume or cologne. Avoid eye contact. Say “Um” when you’re speaking. If you’re nervous, just stop speaking for a moment, take a breath, and begin again. It’s better to pause and collect your thoughts instead of speaking in circles and not answering the question that was asked.
- Use acronyms. When talking about your experience. Your hiring managers likely won’t know the specifics about your current or past jobs and thus will be confused or distracted if you use an unfamiliar acronym. Tell hiring managers what the acronyms mean and that if needed, you’ll be using them for the rest of the interview.
- Speak about controversial topics. Bringing up politics or emotionally-charged topics can make hiring managers hesitant to hire you. It makes you seem overly opinionated. Also, hiring managers might worry that you’ll try to discuss political topics with coworkers, which would surely affect their desire to collaborate with you.
- Answer a question if you’re confused. First of all, make sure you listen to the questions the hiring manager is asking you. Quiet the whirring, nervous thoughts in your head so that you can focus and answer every part of the questions presented to you. And if you’re not sure what a hiring manager is asking, ask for clarification. It’s better to ensure that you know what the question is so that you can answer it and make yourself look good, instead of pretending that you understand and guessing at what the hiring manager means. This prevents you from spending precious interview time talking about things that don’t provide the hiring manager with exactly what he/she needs to know.
Now that you know what to say and do (and what NOT to say and do) during a job interview, let’s get your next interview scheduled so that you can master it and get a great job offer. Explore our Open Positions here.