Etiquette Matters

By Sharon Naylor

May 1, 2009 6 min read

ETIQUETTE MATTERS

Show your manners before, during and after an interview

Sharon Naylor

Creators News Service

You're under the microscope while you're on a job interview. Recruiters and interviewers are reading you every second. So to make the best impression -- and keep that excellent impression when you get the job -- follow these vital etiquette tips:

* Be on time, if not early, for your interview. "Arriving early is good etiquette, since you may have to fill out an application and a release form," said Kristin Urhausen, a former recruiting operations manager for accounting firm KPMG. "We've had candidates arrive on time or slightly late, and then the time it takes them to fill out our paperwork pushes back their interview and throws our entire schedule off. Try to arrive at least a half hour earlier than your scheduled interview, and your consideration of us will reflect well on you."

* Come prepared. "Bring extra copies of your resume so that we can pass them around to all of the interviewers who will be present," said Urhausen. Be sure to bring your driver's license and know your Social Security number so that you're able to deliver exactly what the interviewers require. But put your cell phone away: Interviewees are immediately disqualified for checking a vibrating phone or answering a call.

* Dress appropriately. Peggy Post, co-author of "Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success" ($28, Collins Living), said it's best to research the company. "Some businesses are more informal, and they may have a culture of being more dressed-down," while other industries such as finance and law may be strictly suit and tie.

"It's okay to ask someone you know, either at that company or simply in that same field, for advice on the dress level, and then for your interview you should 'dress up a notch.' Wear something conservative and comfortable. Look your sharpest," said Post. "Strive to be 'clean and neat' both in your dress and in your personal grooming. Appearance is very important on a job interview, so be impeccably groomed as a manner of good business sense and good etiquette. Candidates have been eliminated for having chipped nail polish, for instance."

* Have a good handshake. Interviewers are impressed by a quality handshake as well as good eye contact and body language that shows comfort and confidence. Be sure to shake the hand of the receptionist when you arrive, since front-office staff are often asked for their impression of your manners.

* Have quality questions prepared in advance. "Ask about the direction of the company, what the teams are working on presently, not any what's in-it-for-me questions such as how many vacation and personal days you would get," said Urhausen.

* Address them by name. Contrary to common etiquette beliefs, it is okay to address your interviewers by their first names. "It's fine to be casual, but professional, in an interview," said Urhausen. "If I introduce myself as Kristin Urhausen, it's perfectly acceptable for you to say, 'Kristin, thank you for meeting with me.'"

* Don't share too much personal information, Post said. "It's important to build rapport with your interviewers, and the way to do that is through a good handshake, maintaining eye contact, smiling, being engaged and interested in your interviewers." This does not include sharing the sordid details of your breakup as the answer to, "So what brought you to this city?"

If the interviewer asks you a question you're not comfortable with, such as one about your age or plans to start a family soon, "Just say, 'I don't feel comfortable discussing that in an interview.' Don't be snarky," Post said.

* Sending a thank-you note after the interview is crucial. Post said she has heard stories of people getting hired because they were the only ones to practice good etiquette by sending one. "Hand-write your thank you on fine notepaper or a classic notecard -- you don't have to get engraved cards," advised Post. "Write neatly, spell everything correctly, be sincere, be concise -- just a few sentences are all that's necessary -- and send a thank-you note to each of your interviewers within a day or two's time."

Many job-hunters wonder if it's okay to send an e-mail thank-you note, and Post said that it's a good etiquette practice to send one after the interview as a first step, then following up with the handwritten note. "An e-mailed thank-you note is okay because the interviewer may travel often, or they may work in a technology-based field. You will stand out if you send both an e-mail thank-you and a print thank-you," assured Post.

There's no need to send anything else. "Do not send flowers or gifts after the interview," said Uhrhausen, who added that these turn off the decision-makers, since it is seen as an attempt to buy their favor. "And don't ask 'how did I do?' or 'what are my odds?' after the interview or in a follow-up e-mail. That's a big don't."

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