Put those smartphones away: Great tips for making your job interview count

Whether you are interviewing for a part-time job after school, a job fresh out of college, or a career transition, interviews can impact your likelihood of getting the job. Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette extraordinaire Emily Post, is a modern etiquette expert who has just the tips that might make your interview successful. In the above TEDYouth 2012 Talk, she explains the importance of job interview etiquette (learn how to network your way to a job interview here).

Anna adds to the tips in her TEDYouth Talk below.

1. Why an interview matters

-It’s a way to stand out from the crowd.

-It’s your opportunity to build a positive, strong relationship with the interviewer.

-It’s expected and should never be the reason you don’t get a job for which you’re qualified.

-[You should] demonstrate your respect, interest, and appreciation for the opportunity to interview. [Your actions] show that you understand the choice your interviewer needs to make—and that you understand it from their point of view, not just from yours.

2. The Interview

-Do your research and preparation! According to an article by Amy Gallo posted on the Harvard Business Review’s website in September of 2012, industry experts say that, while candidates know to do some homework, most don’t do nearly enough. Practice articulating your strengths and answering questions you think you might be asked. Spend time practicing out loud—this is key to getting comfortable with the topic, and comfort translates to confidence.

-According to a 2012 study on professionalism in the workplace commissioned by The Center for Professional Excellence at York College in Pennsylvania, 39.9% of HR respondents identified inappropriate attire as one of the most common mistakes job candidates make. So: Dress up a notch from the company’s norm. It’s okay to ask the person arranging your interview or the human resources department what kind of attire is typical for the work environment if you don’t already know.

-Arrive early (29% of respondents in the same study also said being late was a common mistake). Do a dry-run commute to check how much time it takes. I heard one story about a job candidate interviewing at a major tax firm who was nine minutes late. The interviewers told him they wished they could have hired him, but, as he was late, the interview was already over.

-Be as nice to the office administrators and anyone else you meet as you would be to the decision maker because you can bet they will talk to each other about their impressions of you—and that could mean their good impressions, too.

-The greeting. Make eye contact, smile, and say your full name. Repeat back the interviewer’s name if you’re worried about pronunciation or remembering it. Use titles and last names in conservative work environments, such as a bank or law office: “Hello Mr. Martinez.” Have a complete handshake (no fingertips only or dead fish clasps), a firm grip, and two or three pumps. No fist bumps or two-handed shakes, and always stand up to shake hands!

-No smartphone. Turn it off. No one should see it, no one should hear it. Your focus needs to be given entirely to the person with whom you are meeting. Giving your full attention is one of the ways you demonstrate your respect for others; divide your attention, and you diminish the respect.

-Be prepared not only to answer questions but to ask them too. Asking questions shows you value the work the company does and are interested in working there. To form questions, read up on anything and everything you can about the workplace and industry.

-Ask about any next steps and when you might hear from the interviewer at the end of the interview.

3. Phone Interviews

-Confirm the interview (time and phone numbers) via email the day before.

-Make sure you have a quiet place to talk, good reception, and that your phone is charged.

-Have a back-up [phone] number.

-Ask at the start how long the interviewer has to talk. This lets you pace yourself and prevents you from being cut off if they have to wrap up before you’ve gotten to an important point.

-The interviewer only has your voice with which to judge you, so make it count. Don’t let your voice be flat, don’t talk too fast, and don’t laugh nervously. Show enthusiasm.

4. Follow Up

-Write thank-you notes. Almost everyone has written a thank-you note at some point in his or her life. But have you written one for a job interview? It may not be a traditional gift or favor, but this is one opportunity worth being thankful for.

-Thank you notes don’t need to be long—three to five sentences will do. Reference something specific that you talked about. Express appreciation for the opportunity and enthusiasm for the job.

-Emailed thank you’s are okay in addition, but send a handwritten note to each person with whom you met. The two notes should differ slightly. For example, your email might acknowledge the handwritten note that will arrive soon: “I just put a note in the mail but wanted to thank you right away for the opportunity to interview.”

5. The Big Picture

-Let’s talk about nerves. If you’re nervous, let me share the best advice I ever got when I first began public speaking. Before you arrive—in the restroom if you can—look in a mirror, and smile big. Is it goofy? Yes. Does it help center you and put you at ease? Yes.

-Emily Post once said, “Etiquette is about a sensitive awareness to the needs of others.” Think about the process from your interviewer’s point of view and let that awareness help you target your responses in the moment. Preparation is important but so is flexibility and trusting your gut.

-Lastly, the core of etiquette is about treating people with consideration, respect, and honesty. If all else fails, let that guide you. I think it’s the definition of what it means to be professional today.