Job Interview Tips–Etiquette, What Questions to Ask, and Followup

Today’s job interview tips deal with etiquette, what questions to ask and when to ask them, as well as how to follow up on your interview.

So far you have a great profile picture, a business-like email address, a good voice mail message, you’re dressed for success, what else do you need to do to make your interview successful?

How Will Hiring You Benefit Them?

Keep in mind that this conversation is to see if you can benefit their company and fit in with their company culture. Be sure you show concern for the employer’s needs and goals. At the same time, if you get a bad feeling about a company, this is your chance to back away quietly as well.

Face to face job interview Alan Cleaver

Interview Etiquette 101

Let’s start with a smile with direct eye contact and a good handshake, depending on your or your interviewer’s culture. Don’t do one of those hand-crushing bone-grinding I’m-the-man handshakes. Follow the lead of your interviewer. Some cultures are not comfortable with a firm grip; their handshake is the gentlest of clasps, almost a mere touch in respectful acknowledgement. Many times men seem to not realize their strength and hurt the hands of women. Be careful. Be conscious.

Make sure you catch the person’s name (or names) and title. Write it down during or after your interview. Bring a notebook and write a few pertinent points during your interview, especially if applying for a clerical position.

Don’t slouch or cross your legs, but don’t look rigid and stiff. Make eye contact and be attentive. Lean forward slightly to give the impression you are an attentive listener. Nod or otherwise acknowledge you understand and are paying attention. If you don’t understand something, wait for a lull or for your interviewer to ask if you have questions. Don’t interrupt, they will clarify as they go. Listening is a valuable skill.

Don’t fidget, gesture too much or squirm in your seat.

Pretty much everything your 3rd grade teacher and your mom lectured you about.

Do You Have Any Questions?

You will probably be asked if you have any questions. That’s the part many of us dread, frankly. You’re not alone on that one! This is when you get to ask the interviewer to clarify anything you don’t understand.  Think ahead about what you’d like to know or use that notebook if you’re nervous you’ll forget. If expectations and duties were not covered to your satisfaction, you could ask about those.  Take note of things the interviewer says that you may not understand and ask those questions at this point.

Is overtime required and what is their overtime rate?

What is the organizational structure? Who is the CEO, etc. Is there room for advancement in the company?

Be sure you understand the clothing, equipment, or safety gear requirements. Some companies are very specific.  I’ve asked interviewers what stores they recommend or  that knows their requirements. Slip-proof work shoes for walking and standing are different from other shoes and are worth spending money on. You can’t do a good job if you’re hurting or worried about slipping and falling.

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How much money do you want to make?

Don’t worry, everyone else is intimidated by that one too.

One good answer is ‘the company rate for that position’.

Minimum wage is common for young people just starting out, but if you have some paid experience, you may point to that and say you would like to receive more than minimum wage. Typically companies  pay a dollar or so more an hour for someone with at least a year’s paid work experience. It’s often a matter of standard policy, not something a hiring manager can negotiate.

If they do not let you know when they plan to call applicants back, it is appropriate to ask when they plan to hire.

At the end of the interview, thank the person or panel, again shake hands, and say you look forward to hearing from them.


How long should you wait to recontact?

A good rule of thumb is to send a brief note of thanks for your interview about three days later. Your note should be on a plain small note card, nothing flowery or fancy. Snail mail always impresses, but it depends on the company culture. Send individual cards to everyone who interviewed you, if there was a panel or team.

Most office supply, drug, and general stores (Staples, Walmart, Target) carry formal thank you notes with room inside to write a personal message. They usually come in packs of ten or twenty.

A progressive startup may prefer email, but it doesn’t hurt to cover all your bases and stand out. Be sincere, and don’t make a sales pitch or apologize for anything, or remind them of anything negative. Be formal, don’t use ‘text speak’ with lol’s and emojis. Have someone who excels at grammar double-check it for you. If you don’t have good handwriting, print it out and hand sign it.

If you don’t know when the company plans to hire, calling back after five business days is good.

Always be pleasant and continue to leave a good impression even if you don’t get the job. Ask if you might be considered for any future openings. Express appreciation for the interview again.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re an employer, what do you like to see? If you’ve been hired, what got you the job?


2 thoughts on “Job Interview Tips–Etiquette, What Questions to Ask, and Followup”

  1. Each article in this series contains excellent and valuable advice. As a former hiring manager, I believe you have covered all the essentials and included additional tidbits that can really help people in their job search process.

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