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Home  > Article

Interview Etiquette

By Sarah Auerbach

Follow these guidelines for dress and body language to ace your interviews.

Before you even get into the interviewer's office, you can start making a good impression.
When you go for an interview, you're trying to prove that you're fabulous and eminently hireable. But you're also trying to prove that you're just plain normal. You have to appear normal. That means dressing right, "speaking" with the best possible body language, and obeying some basic rules of interviewing etiquette.

Basic rules of dress

Dress conservatively and comfortably. Your clothes should fit well and be non-constricting. What exactly you wear depends on where you're interviewing. Here are the guidelines for conservative interview dress:

Conservative dress for men

  • Dark grey or navy blue wool suit
  • Long-sleeved all-cotton shirt
  • 100 percent silk necktie (no outrageous prints)
  • Plain, dark tie- or slip-on shoes
  • High, dark socks that won't slide down
  • No jewelry, except for cufflinks and a wedding band

Conservative dress for women

One school of thought says men are lucky because they don't have to think much about what to wear when they dress up. The other says a suit and tie are just no fun. As with fashion in general, women have more flexibility than men about what to wear to interviews. But that means more decisions! Women are expected to appear up on current fashion, while also keeping conservative and businesslike-and showing their individuality.

  • A suit or dress in a natural fabric
  • No tight or revealing clothes
  • Knee-length or longer skirts
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • A scarf, if desired
  • Little jewelry
  • A briefcase or purse (but not both)
  • Closed-toe pumps

Let's get real

You could get laughed out of some offices in an outfit like those described above. While some jobs call for a dark, conservative suit, others may demand a more casual or more creative style of dress-particularly for careers in creative industries like publishing, the arts, or advertising. One strategy is to head out to the office where you'll be interviewing and take a sneak peek at what people wear around the office. (Bonus: This also allows you to map out your route in advance so you won't be late to your interview.)

Personal hygiene
Regardless of what you wear, you should follow some rules about personal hygiene. We probably don't have to remind you of this, but you should shower and wear deodorant. Don't wear perfume or cologne unless you're willing to risk giving your interviewer an allergic attack. Women should wear only a little makeup. Have clean, well manicured hands-no pale-blue nail polish.

The subject of hands leads us to that most important impression-maker, the handshake. You know the drill: firm, but not painful. If you want to make sure your hand isn't sweaty when you shake, carry a handkerchief. To keep your hands from being cold, wash them in warm water just before your interview, or put them to your cheek right before you shake.

Eye contact, no mouth contact
When you shake hands hello with your interviewer, make eye contact. And continue to make eye contact throughout the interview. Don't cross your arms (it's off-putting), or nod persistent or rapidly (it's dismissive). Don't touch your mouth or neck or bite your lips--all signal a lack of self-confidence. And don't fidget with your jewelry, your fingers, or-especially-anything on the interviewer's desk. It's best to sit back in your seat with your back straight, leaning slightly forward-to give the impression that you're relaxed but alert.

Your entrance
Before you even get into the interviewer's office, you can start making a good impression. Be on time, but not more than five minutes early (you can kill extra time by grabbing a cup of coffee somewhere nearby or reading in your car). In the reception area, respond politely and in a friendly way to the receptionist, and ask where s/he'd like you to wait. Look over your own materials or pick up materials on the company or a-not-too-risque magazine. Take deep breaths and try to slow your pace down so you won't sound like Mickey Mouse when you start to talk. When the interviewer ushers you into his office, wait to take a seat until you're asked.

And don't forget to check with your school's career center for additional help. 

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