How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Job Interview Etiquette

A successful job interview starts in your closet. Choose an outfit that is appropriate for the company culture where you're interviewing. Wear a suit and tie to a law office and office casual to a Web start-up. If you have no idea what to wear, call up the human resources department and ask. Even if the culture is ultra-casual, you must always look well-groomed and clean.

Be nice to all receptionists and assistants! You never know whose opinion counts the most with an employer [source: White]. If the interview goes well, but you were obnoxious in the waiting area, you blew it. Greet everyone with a friendly and pleasant attitude -- even if they don't do the same.

Believe it or not, handshakes do matter. The key words are firm, friendly and fast. Avoid sweaty palms, hand-crushing grips and "dead fish" fingers. And don't forget to punctuate that handshake with a winning smile. With all of that concentrating on your handshake, don't forget to catch your interviewer's name. This could be awkward later.

Sit up straight and lean slightly forward. This makes you look ready and eager to get started. Be friendly and upbeat, but don't sit there with a smile glued on your face. It comes across as phony [source: Hershon]. Smile and nod when appropriate without turning into a human bobble head.

Don't be the first one to bring up the topic of salary or vacation or sick days or parking spaces [source: Potter]. If the interviewer feels like you're a good candidate, he or she will be the one to break the ice. If you mention any of those items first, it will make you look greedy and superficial.

There are conflicting opinions about when to ask a question in an interview. Some experts say to wait until the end, when the interviewer typically asks if you have any questions. Others say it's fine to break in with a question if it's on topic and the conversation is going well.

But there's one job interview etiquette tip that experts and hiring managers all agree upon: Follow up with a thank-you note. Yes, it seems a little cheesy, but a short, friendly thank-you note is a hallmark of good manners and will help keep you fresh in the employer's mind. You don't have to hand-write the note on fancy stationary. A simple e-mail will suffice. Without being too obvious, recap your best selling points and reiterate how excited you are about the prospect of working for the company [source: White].

For more job search tips and interviewing etiquette, follow the links to more HowStuffWorks articles below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Adams, Susan. "Why Job-Seeking is Just like Dating" (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Buhl, Larry. "Own the Interview: 10 Questions to Ask" Yahoo! Hotjobs. (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Fisher, Anne. "Employer's wacky interview questions." Fortune. (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Hering, Beth Braccio. "Developing Your Selling Points" (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Hershon, Marc and Littman, Jonathon. "10 Ways to Be Liked in Your Job Interview." Yahoo! Hotjobs. (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Madden, Kaitlin. "How to Answer: What Have You Been Ding Since You Were Laid Off?" (Aug. 8, 2010.)
  • Potter, Caroline M.L. "When to Raise the Salary Question" Yahoo! Hotjobs. (Aug. 9, 2010.)
  • Robert Half International. "7 Ways to Wreck Your Job Interview." (Aug. 8, 2010.)
  • White, Doug. "Mastering the Subtleties of a Job Interview" Yahoo! Hotjobs. (Aug. 9, 2010.)