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Interview Etiquette: Top 10 Rules to Follow

A place to help you brush up on interview etiquette and basic rules to follow.
Interview Etiquette: Top 10 Rules to Follow

What are some interview etiquette rules that you should follow? Here are our top 10 rules of interviewing that you should NEVER break.

Don’t lie

That doesn’t mean that you have to advertise your weaknesses. There are ways to reframe negatives and accentuate positives. However, it’s never a good idea to lie. Interviewers are good at sniffing out dishonesty, and lies are likely to come back to haunt you. Besides, trying to keep your phony stories straight will just make you more nervous.

Honor the interviewer

Always act like you are interested. Show enthusiasm for the job and company. They want you to be as inquisitive about them as they are about you. Asking questions is always a plus, as long as they are professional and relevant.

The key to all questions prior to closing the deal is what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. You want to excel in the role, take on new challenges, and grow with the company.

You want to contribute, work hard, and make your interviewer’s job easier. You can ask about vacation time, bonus structure, and dress code after they make an offer.

From time to time you might run across a bad interviewer. Try to maintain your positive attitude, and after the interview is done try to figure out if it could have been something little (like a bad day) or something tied to company culture.


Every book and article on job interviewing repeats the same advice: Practice answering questions before the interview. But how many people really do it? Not many.

Preparation will help you tighten and refine your answers and make you feel much more confident. You absolutely cannot prepare too much.

You can practice in front of a mirror, with a friend or family member, or use an interview preparation tool for maximum results (and minimum awkwardness). You’ll notice a dramatic difference if you plan and prepare your answers.

A note of caution: Don’t script and memorize your responses word for word. You want to sound confident and polished, not robotic.

Keep the job requirements in mind

Customize your responses to highlight the most relevant strengths and accomplishments for the job at hand. Future performance can be predicted by past behavior, so you should always be thinking of how your stories and examples relate to the job you are seeking.

The same applies to answering questions about weaknesses or failures. Never offer up a weakness that could raise a red flag about your ability to do the job at hand.

For example, if you’re an accountant, don’t confess up to a lack of attention to detail. Choose an acceptable weakness that is not central to the position and make sure your answer conveys how you are already addressing the weakness or have learned from the mistake.

Show personality

Personality matters because it shows the interviewer who you are outside of work and hints at how you’d get along with the other employees. Chemistry is key in a team environment, and attention will be paid to how you are likely to fit in with others.

Don’t be afraid to show confidence and pay attention to your body language.

Be specific

You want to be clear about your specific role, so think about how you use “I” and “we.” Interviewers will want to know that you can work well on a team, but they will also be interested in your individual contributions. In other words, “I” was able to do this and this helped the team, or “we,” to achieve success.

As a manager claiming success stories, recognize team members for their strengths but accent how you were able to harness them and put them to their most effective use.

Be concise

Don’t be afraid to talk, but be concise. Don’t ramble. Don’t go beyond two minutes on any single answer unless you are asked for more information.

Answer every question

It’s fine to also use a question as a jumping off point to bring up or reinforce a point that you’d like to make. However, avoiding a question can make it look like you’re trying to hide something.

Make eye contact

Eye contact is important. Steady, natural eye contact conveys confidence and sincerity and helps you establish a connection with your interviewer. It sounds easy, but it may require some practice if you tend to be nervous or shy with people you don’t know.

Avoid the following eye contact mistakes: shifty looks, staring down, cleavage glances, eye-rolling, intense over-compensating stare. Practice with a friend if you’re concerned that you haven’t mastered eye etiquette.

Follow up within 24 hours

Follow up immediately after the interview, thanking the interviewer for their time. Reiterate how much you enjoyed the conversation and how excited you are about the prospects of working for the company. Email is fine for this, but a handwritten note can help you stand out with some interviewers. Remember to proofread carefully for typos and grammatical gaffes.

Ready to nail your next interview?

Start by reading this guide on how to prepare and this list of the most common interview questions (with sample answers).

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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