I would like to discuss your behaviour when interviewed, today – not your CV or your qualifications and experience. Your behaviour (everything you say and do, including your body language) will be scrutinised from the moment you arrive until you leave.

I wrote this article assuming that you have done your homework on the company (to understand who they are, what they do, how they do it and other information such as the size of the company, where they are situated, the CEO’s name etc) and that you prepared thoroughly for the interview.

It is very important to be regarded as professional. Professionalism is the term we use for the standards or expectations society has of people’s conduct in the workplace. Professionalism describes our behaviour and attitude at work, which is based on our personal values, culture and past experiences. We all have certain expectations regarding our own ad others’ conduct. In order to be truly professional, our conduct has to remain above reproach at all times and has to fit in with the circumstances and situation. (Extract from my book ‘Up The Corporate Ladder – Professionalism in the Workplace’)

  1. Be on time! There is NO excuse for being late. If you experience a crisis you need to let the right people know that you are going to be late or that you need to postpone the interview. Explain your situation and apologise. It is unprofessional to arrive late for any meeting.
  2. Make sure that you are dressed appropriately. Rather be a little overdressed than under-dressed. Outlandish hairstyles and colours are almost always frowned upon. If you have body piercings and tattoos, cover them up if you can. Your shoes should be clean. Ladies, do not show cleavage. Your skirt or dress should not be too short and your pants not too tight, and rather remove your nail polish than showing up with chipped nails. Keep your make up light. Why all the fuss about the way you look? People judge you within 50 seconds of meeting you. First impressions really do count and whether we like it or not, some people are a lot more conservative than others and they bring their own beliefs and prejudices to every situation – they may be deciding on your future! Rather be more on the conservative side on the day of your interview than too ‘out there.’
  3. Don’t wear heavy perfume or aftershave.
  4. If you smoke you should not smoke just before going into an interview because the smell will be clinging to your hands, clothes, breath, and body. It will be a huge turnoff for a non-smoking interviewer.
  5. Your cell phone should not be seen or heard from the moment you walk into reception. Never place your cell phone on the table or desk – put it away.
  6. Don’t chew gum!
  7. Have a good attitude! Even if you get upset about someone or something just before the interview. Give yourself permission to postpone your concerns until after the interview so that you can focus. Think happy thoughts – it really works. Your attitude will be evident through your body language.
  8. Be kind to everyone you come into contact with, from the security guard at the gate to the receptionist and people waiting in the reception area.
  9. Don’t be loud or aggressive.
  10. Make an effort to remember the interviewer(s) name(s) when introduced. Use their name when shaking their hand – it will help you to remember their name. Society has become a lot more casual these days regarding the use of someone’s first names instead of calling them by their title, for instance, Dr, Ms, Mrs etc., but it is more appropriate to use someone’s surname instead of their first name. Wait to be invited to use their first name unless they are introduced to you by their first name only. It is good business etiquette.
  11. Shake hands when introduced. This is not the time to say: “I’m a hugger” and to go in for a hug and it’s very inappropriate to kiss anyone. I met a man a few days ago who kissed my hand because he was trying to be charming – unprofessional!
  12. Don’t take a seat until they take their seats or until you are invited to take a seat. When someone enters the room whilst you are seated and you are introduced, stand up and shake their hand unless they are on the other side of the table – don’t lean over the table to shake hands unless they do. Even ladies need to stand up when introduced to someone or when greeting someone you know. It is good manners.
  13. Don’t slide your business card over the table to anyone. It should be handed to them.
  14. Don’t compliment anyone on their personal appearance and NEVER come on to anyone, even if you are attracted to them! It is inappropriate and very unprofessional.
  15. Whatever you do, don’t use slang to be hip and do not curse – even if they do (they may be testing you!) Use good English.
  16. Don’t gossip about anyone and don’t badmouth the company you work(ed) for. There are more appropriate ways to inform the interviewer(s) about your difficult relationship with someone. Be diplomatic. Remember, you should be able to demonstrate that you are able to get on with most people – even difficult people.
  17. Don’t interrupt anyone. Let them finish what they’re saying before speaking.
  18. Listen. Don’t just hear what they say. Listen with the intention to understand what they say. We tend to listen just enough so that we can formulate a reply. Wait until the person has finished speaking before concluding what they said and ask questions if you don’t understand. Never assume that you know what they meant unless you really do.
  19. Answer the questions with just enough detail and don’t go into long drawn-out explanations unless they ask for more information.
  20. NEVER lie about anything. It will come back to bite you!
  21. It’s ok to be appropriately humorous (once or twice) but you need to take your interview seriously.
  22. Don’t be too ‘familiar’ with the interviewers. Keep a professional distance and be respectful.
  23. Watch your body language. Don’t sit with your arms folded (it will be seen as being closed off or a bad attitude) and don’t slouch (it means that you are doing them a favour by being there.) Soften your facial expressions. Lifting one eyebrow means that you disapprove of or criticising something that was said or someone in the room. Don’t roll your eyes (it means disapproval or frustration.) Don’t drop your mouth open, even if you are surprised. Careful with hand gestures – you may offend someone. The thumbs up gesture is inappropriate in some cultures.
  24. Consider cultural differences when communicating with people. Not everyone will make eye contact with you. In certain cultures it is considered as disrespectful to look someone in the eye, especially when they are much older, or have a higher rank in society or position in a company.
  25. Don’t ask the interviewer(s) personal questions.
  26. Don’t complain about anything!
  27. Don’t give too much information about yourself – ever! It is inappropriate to discuss your reasons for your divorce or even to mention that you threw up last night!
  28. Don’t put yourself down and don’t be shy. Display good self-esteem. Stand and sit up straight and look people in the eye without staring. Speak with a firm but friendly voice and at a volume that everyone can hear.
  29. Some conditions of employment may be critical to your circumstances that you may need to discuss it during the interview, but salary and/or terms of employment should really only be discussed once you are made an offer by the company.
  30. Don’t be demanding – even if you are a specialist in your field of work. Chances are that you will not get the job.
  31. Don’t overstay your welcome and don’t ask to be ‘shown around’ unless they offer.
  32. If you are asked to provide additional information or documentation do it as soon as possible on the same day if possible or soon as possible.
  33. Don’t hound the interviewer(s) or Human Resources manager after your interview but it is appropriate to phone a few days or a week after your interview to ask for feedback unless they said they would get back to you by a certain date.