Even the very idea of an interview can scare you out of your mind – it can send little shivers down your spine, give you goose bumps, get your heart racing, your hands trembling, your voice tottering and leave you in a state of ridiculous bafflement. I know some people who would start running in the opposite direction at the first mention of the word ‘interview’.

To put it simply – interviews are scary and have the ability to make you a nervous wreck. It is of course understandable why an interview is so anxiety-inducing. In fact, you’d be a fool if you take interviews lightly. After all, you’re being judged by strangers in 5 to 10 minutes and this judgement could make or break your career.

Therefore, the first advice I always give people when I share my interview experiences is that you need to be triumphant against the nervousness and the chaos inside of you and get an air of confidence about your personality. And so, even when I talk about interview etiquette, I’m going to start off by talking about confidence issues.

You could go to a behavioural or a body language expert and acquire tons of ‘golden rules’ and points regarding interview etiquette but if your confidence is in shreds, learning these ’golden rules’ will be a futile exercise and will only increase your anxiety.

Why, you ask. The answer is – if you’re nervous and restless, you won’t be thinking straight and you will mix up these crammed up golden rules till they become a puddle of unintelligible thoughts in your head. Once this happens, you will start trying harder and harder to recall the million things you mugged up and your mind will start to go numb.

I see websites and experts giving people tons of rules about how to behave and how not to, and I see how people try to study these rules like it is some sort of theoretical knowledge. Hence, I decided to start out with this warning – The first and foremost thing you need to do is get some confidence. Also, etiquette is not a set of theoretical rules that you need to learn. It is a practical application that needs to come naturally.

The next question that must pop into your head is – how to be confident. The first thing you need to realize is that you’re not going into a war to face men with arms and ammunition. You’re not even being tried for a murder you committed. (And if you were, you’d never get away with it if you’re sitting there like a nervous child.)

There will probably always be that slight nervousness accompanying you like a shadow whenever you go for an interview. But have some faith in yourself! Trust your abilities and go with your instincts! You have 5 to 10 minutes where rather than letting the interviewers intimidate you, you should show them what you’re made of! Be the bold brush strokes of a painter, be the free spirit of a river and go ahead and impress the interviewers. You can do it!

Now, let’s talk about what interview etiquette says –

1. Appearance

I guess this is a pretty obvious one – do not go into an interview wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. You live in a world where professional conduct is valued more than anything else. So dress professionally! I have seen some people who are a little shy in this regard and think that a shirt and trousers would suffice and that anything more than that would look too flashy. No! Wear a complete dark coloured business suit (black, dark blue, grey etc.) that fits you well. Guys, you must also wear a tie to enhance your formal look. Now this is again an obvious consideration but one that I’m going to mention anyway – all your clothes should be properly ironed.

Wearing big, long, dangling, tinkling and flashy earrings would be very unprofessional. Wear simple accessories that aren’t too ostentatious. You’re not going to attend a wedding so choose your accessories accordingly! I hope any guys reading this realize that the last three lines were meant for girls and girls only. Just to make it clear to you guys, no matter how cool you think you look wearing accessories, do not wear any earrings or nose-rings or whatever other weird fashion statements you have.

Another small detail that a lot of people inadvertently overlook is the importance of sleep before the big day. You don’t want to look tired, sleep-deprived and depressed. So make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the D-day. I wouldn’t say you cannot wear perfume or make-up but it needs to be very subtle if you do.

2. Paperwork

Determine what all things you need, collect it together and organise it. Buy a number of file folders or document envelopes and create an “interview dossier” you take to every job interview. Proper attention need to be given to the dossier as the interviewer judges so much about you through it than you may even think. Creating a good first impression is crucial.

Imagine walking into an interview room holding all the documents in your hand, looking all clumsy as the documents fall and so does your career with that. Or entering the room empty handed. NO matter how good you look or how confidently you answer all the questions, the interviewer had already made up his mind to reject you the moment he saw you.

Therefore preparing everything beforehand is a ‘MUST’. Ideally the dossier should contain:

  • Copies of Resume or CV (Curriculum Vitae)
  • Recent passport size photographs
  • A printed list of references to leave behind
  • Copies of degree/ diploma certificate and specialist qualifications
  • Other documents may include: Different certificates regarding the achievements mentioned in the CV

3. Do your Research

Preparing for the interview is the most crucial thing. Review the website, its key clients, a little stats about the company. Find out about your interviewer (that is, if you can) and learn something about them, such as their success story or any awards they have received. You really want to leave a good impact on the interviewer by projecting yourself as a person who is interested, has done his homework and pays attention to the details.

4. Arriving on time

The last thing you want would be to arrive late for the interview because of some problem in the metro or your car being stuck in the traffic. So always make sure to leave your house in time taking in view any unwanted circumstance that may arise. Check the logistics ahead of time so you ensure that you’re not late.

Give yourself a few more minutes that will give you an opportunity to stop in the rest room to freshen up and check for any hair, makeup or wardrobe malfunctions.

I remember being late for my first interview and screwing up the whole interview because i was not able to calm down. So give yourself the time to calm down and catch your breath and de-stress yourself before the interview.

At the same time do not reach the office 2 hours in advance and disturb the receptionist.

5. Things to do when you enter the office

Do not panic. Even if you are getting late, just do not panic. You are on a stage the very moment you enter the building where the interview is supposed to take place. You may be in the same elevator with the interviewer. Doing all the wrong things would screw up your interview before it starts.

  • Keep your cell phone switched off-not on silent or vibrate but switched off. You do not want to get distracted by anything at the most crucial time of your career.
  • Greet the receptionist with a smile and politely introduce yourself to her.
  • Sit properly in the waiting area while you wait for your turn.
  • Stand and shake hands with the person who escorts you to the interview room.

These gestures may seem useless but they can build a very strong impression about you even before the interview starts.

6. Things to do when you enter the room

Enter only when you are asked to come in and do not bang the door after entering. After you enter the room and take bold and confident steps towards the interviewers, you should greet them. Shake hands with them and do not sit unless you’re asked to. Once they do ask you to sit, make yourself comfortable and stop over-thinking if you have that habit. Sit comfortably, with your hands on the armrest of the chair or on the table. When you’re asked your name, state your full name in a tone that is emphatic and yet polite. Here are a few pointers you could remember –

  • Don’t be a restless 5 year old. Sit still with your back straight.
  • Make eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Have a clear thought process and answer fluently and confidently.
  • Try to be expressive when you answer. No one wants to hire a zombie.
  • Do not play with your hair, rotate you chair or do anything that shows your nervousness.

7. Smile

I’ve always believed that the best accessory one can wear is a smile on one’s face! Have a polite smile on your face when you enter the room, when you greet the interviewers and while answering the questions. Now when I say smile, I do not mean you should go and start laughing at the interviewer’s face or that you keep a ‘say-cheese’ expression the entire time you’re there. An interesting experience comes to mind when I talk about smiling in an interview.

It was the HR round interview and unfortunately, it was a vicious looking abominable lady who conducted my interview. I kept smiling at her. But she just wouldn’t smile back at me. She kept giving me the same rude expression! She kept giving me looks gleaming with hate. The short-tempered crazy girl that I am, I lost my cool and started frowning back at her. For the next few minutes, we had a competition on who could frown more. When I realized she was winning, I became indignant, started fuming with rage, punched her in the face and broke her nose.

Did I actually do that? I’ll leave that for you to decide. The point of the story is that you might get a rude interviewer. But that does not mean you be rude to him/her. You should continue to be polite and keep smiling.

8. The handshake

A lot of people say that you could tell a lot about a person by his handshake.

Learn the professional way to give a handshake. Extend your right arm parallel to the floor with your thumb pointing to the ceiling, and go all the way into your interviewer’s hand until the space between thumbs and index fingers touch. Wrap your thumb and fingers all the way around your interviewer’s hand and squeeze assertively–not painfully

 Your handshake should be firm and self-assured. It should give positive vibes of confidence and boldness. I cannot emphasize enough that this applies to both males and females. A weak handshake depicts you as a lazy pushover. Why would someone select you if you come across as weak? And to guys who are excessively proud of their strength, do not show your strength there. You don’t want to hurt your interviewer either!

9. Ask Questions

At the end of almost every interview, the interviewee is asked whether he has any questions or wants to discuss anything with the employers. And because no one tells you otherwise, most people reply to this with a very unconvincing shake of the head or a ‘No’. I did the same many times so I know that it’s almost impossible to come up with questions in that kind of a pressure situation. But the job interview is a two-way street. It is an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the company, but also to learn more about the workplace to see if you’d fit in.

So prepare your questions in advance. Ask them a question about their company, or their work, or the roles you will be expected to fulfil. Because when you simply say that you don’t have any questions, you come across as indifferent and uninterested.

  • Also Read: 4 Important Points to Ask before Ending an Interview

10. Exit Strategy

When your interview is over, just get up and thank the interviewer. Make eye contact, shake hands (a firm shake) and try to use the name of the interviewer(s), followed by “Sir” as you thank him. It’s appropriate to ask what the next step in the hiring process will be and when you might expect to hear. He may even give you his visiting card. With both hands hold it, pretend to read it (even if you don’t want to) and keep it in your wallet. DO NOT throw the card anywhere near the office premises at all. Exit slowly from the door without banging it. Check for any follow up action at the reception after that.

  • Recommended Read: 3 Amazing Ways to End an Interview

The thing with interviews is- The more you practice, the better you get. Getting to know the golden rules in advance is important. So now call a friend and have that practice interview sessions with him. So the next time you have an interview, you know that offer letter is yours for sure.


The above article has been authored by Hency Batheja who is a CA Final Student.