Interview etiquette

Handy tips on how to make a good impression

Interview etiquette is about the largely unwritten rules of interviews so you don't blow it before you even get started answering questions.

Here's our guide to interview etiquette:-


You may be on security cameras being viewed from inside the building. Anyone from the security guard, to the receptionist, to the person that brings you a drink may be asked what they thought of you. They will be looking for people who:

  • They like and who are polite
  • Greet them with a smile
  • Can make a conversation (we call it small talk –usually about the weather or the journey – be positive though!)
  • Look and sound organised –for example knowing the name and department you are visiting
  • Have manners –so remember your 'pleases' and thank them for any help they give you

Breaking the Ice

Start the ball rolling. Comments about the weather, your journey, the building can be helpful. Respond to the interviewers conversation in an equally relaxed manner. Don’t rush in to talk about yourself until the interviewer indicates the interview has started. Easy small talk will settle any nerves and develop some rapport. Do not say anything negative, even as an attempt at a joke.

Body Language

You can read more on body language by clicking here but here are the basics

Remember to

  • Smile
  • Make eye contact
  • The eyebrow flash (quickly raising eyebrows indicates you are interested). Make sure its natural though or it will look very odd!

Shake Hands

To shake or not to shake is something people worry about. Interview etiquette is simple. Presume you will be offered a hand and if you are shake it firmly and confidently. If you are not offered a hand assess the situation and offer yours with a smile, eye contact and a friendly hello or good morning. It would be bad manners if the interviewer did not respond to your gesture.

Here are few tips on handshakes:-

  • A firm handshake indicates confidence
  • A vice like grip indicates dominance, arrogance and competitiveness
  • Don’t do a ‘dead fish’. A limp handshake indicates lack of confidence and is a real turn off
  • Practice your handshake with a friend to get the idea of how firm to grasp
  • Palm to palm for no longer than 3 seconds whilst maintaining eye contact and smile will create a favourable impression
  • Sweaty palms- a discrete wipe before offering your hand will avoid this
  • Don’t wipe your hands after the shake!

Accepting Refreshments

Accepting refreshments can be a risky strategy though refusing may make you appear nervous.

Take a lead from your interviewer. Notice if they are having a drink. Join them if you feel you can manage without spilling or choking. Safest is a glass of water in front of you just in case you dry up.It can be useful to reach for a drink when you need to think for a couple of seconds- you can say ‘excuse me a moment’ and take a sip. You gain valuable thinking time

Trying to eat, even a biscuit, and impress the interviewer at the same time is not easy. Avoid food unless it will quell nervous tummy rumbles.

If you have to eat a buffet or full meal make sure you choose something simple. Avoid anything with sauce that might drip or anything that could prove hard to eat, a chicken leg, for example or anything that could prove messy. Don't take big mouthfuls and eat slowly. Be aware at anytime you might have to answer a question or strike up conversation. Anyone who talks to you over a meal will be part of the interview process so remain alert.

You don't want to blow it at what is sometimes referred to as 'trial by sherry'.

Sitting Down

  • Interview etiquette says it is best not to sit down without being invited to
  • Do not slump back into the chair
  • Do not sit bolt upright. You will look uncomfortable and nervous
  • Sit comfortably – if you get chance to think about it match how the intervier sits. This is great for rapport building. You can find more on rapport building by clicking here
  • Find a comfortable position for your hands. Placing them on your lap looks the most relaxed, comfortable and confident
  • Avoid crossing your arms or crossing your legs. And ladies remember to keep your knees & feet together even if you are wearing trousers. Guys – do not do the legs wide apart posture. It is a very aggressive and domineering gesture but easy to do when you are nervous. It is a natural attack/defence masculine gesture so be careful!

As well as knowing the interview etiquette for before and during the interview you can click here for our tips on ending the interview