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How to behave during a job interview

Get That Job: 5 Job Interview Codes of Conduct

By Dan Green

The way you behave in an interview can make the difference between getting the job, and getting passed over. Your body language, eye contract, and grace are on all display.

How To Behave In A Job Interview

When you interview for a job, your behavior matters. You’ll want to conduct yourself in a way that helps your interviewer focus on the conversation, and little else.

Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Limit the motion of your hands and arms. Use good posture. Maintain good eye contact.

When you’re doing things right, your interviewer won’t notice — and that’s good. Your interviewer will be focused on nothing but your answers.

With no distractions and your interviewer’s attention, you’re more likely to get the job.

Here are some reminders for when you’re sitting in your interview.

1. Take Water When It’s Offered To You

At the start of most interviews, you’ll be offered a cup of coffee or tea; or a glass of cold water.

Take it. You’re not being a bother and you’re not being a nuisance. You’re being smart.

Regardless of whether you’re thirsty, accepting the drink does three important things for you.

First, when you accept a drink, it creates a break at the interview start for some small talk. Use this time to get comfortable and take a few breaths.

Shake off the jitters a bit, if you have them.

As part of getting your drink, your interviewer may walk you to the company kitchen, or to the break room. This can be an invaluable part of your interview.

Observe the company culture. Look to see if employees are friendly with one another; and, whether the kitchen or break room is kept clean, which can also tell you a lot.

Second, when you accept a drink at the start of the interview, you now have a “thing” that you can use to buy yourself time when you need it.

If the interviewer asks you a surprise question such as “What type of animal best describes you?”, you can reach for your drink and take a sip, which gives your brain extra time to think.

The drink becomes a prop. An effective one.

Third, sometimes you just get thirsty. When you do, it’s good to have that drink at hand.

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2. Maintain Appropriate Body Language And Eye Contact

Conversations are a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication. What you say with your mouth is just as important as what you say with your body.

Assume you are being watching from the moment you enter the building.

Stand tall and walk calmly. If you’re late, never run. If you’ve lost something in your bag, search for it slowly and patiently.

Maintain your composure.

While seated, sit all the way back your chair. Hold your shoulders slightly back and keep your head at its highest point, as if it’s being pulled upward by a string

Lean in to a conversation to indicate interest, but only slightly. And, use your hands while you talk, if you’d like. Just keep them below your collarbone.

When your hands come up too high, it can make you look frantic.

Maintain good eye contact, too. Looking at your interviewer directly shows confidence and truthfulness — especially when you’re answering a question.

A good rule for eye contact is to look at your interviewers eyes long enough to be aware of what color they are. Then, look away briefly, or look at the interviewer’s mouth.

Ignore activity going on behind your interviewer’s back. Constantly looking over your interviewer’s shoulder can make it look like you’d rather be somewhere else.

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3. Be Ready To Answer: “Tell Me A Little About Yourself”

Most interviews open with some variation of the question: “Tell me a little about yourself.” You know the question is coming. Have your answer ready and rehearsed.

Here’s how to answer it.

When your interviewer asks to tell a little bit about yourself, give the answer in a way the interviewer will appreciate.

  1. Talk a little bit about you, in the present
  2. Talk a little longer about you, in the past
  3. Talk about your future, and why you’re excited for this job

Here’s how this formula might sound in real-world job interview.

“I’m currently finishing up my senior year at school where I’ve focused on design studies, including drafting and architecture. I’ve worked part-time with several architectural design firms where I handled 3D modeling and did a bit of hand-sketching as well. I really enjoyed that work which is why I’m so excited about the opportunity to work here, with your team.”

When you answer the “Tell me a little about yourself” question using the Today-Yesterday-Tomorrow format, you demonstrate to your interviewer that you put thought into why you applied for the job; and, why you think you’re a good fit.

Don’t tell your life story. Instead, give a clear, steady answer and deliver it with confidence. You will have started your interview much better than most.

4. Deflect Questions That Are “Too Personal”

Sometimes, interviews ask questions that make you uncomfortable. You have no obligation to answer these questions.

You can always skip a question you deem too personal.

For example, even though questions about your gender, your family status, your nationality, religion or race are illegal to ask during an interview, some interviewers will do it regardless. Not usually with ill-intent, but it happens.

You have the right to refuse an answer. When a question is too personal for you, politely deflect.

As an example, if you are ever asked “Where are you from?”, you can answer with: “I’ve lived in a lot of places, actually. I’m legally authorized to work in the United States, though, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Just keep your answers focused on the company and how you can be a contributing team member. That’s the best way to bring the focus back to the interview.

It’s how you move forward with grace.

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5. Ask Your Interviewer: “What Has Been Your Best Moment With The Company So Far?”

At the end of every interview, your interviewer will ask you, “Do you have any questions for me?” Don’t skip this chance to shine.

Ask your interviewer: “What has been your best moment with the company so far?”

Then, say nothing. Just wait for the answer. Your interviewer will give you all sorts of insights into the company.

You’ll hear about the company’s true values from a person who works there; and, you’ll learn what’s important to the interviewer as a human

A psychological component comes into play, too.

As your interviewer shares personal, proud moments, it triggers positive feelings and sentiment. Your interviewer will feel good. And, this feeling will be the last thing your interviewer remembers about your interview.

Ending your interview on a strong note is important for getting an offer. Asking this question almost guarantees that strong finish.

How To Give A Better Job Interview

A job interview is about more than your resume and qualifications.

The way you talk and walk matters to your interviewer, and so do your answers to job-related questions.

Take control of your job interview and you’ll maximize your chances of getting a great job offer.

Read more from our series on Giving A Good Job Interview:

Written by Dan Green

Dan Green is a mortgage lending expert and the founder of Growella. Prior to Growella, Dan was a six-time, top-producing loan officer; and, ranked repeatedly among the top 1% of loan officers nationwide. Dan's home buying expertise has been in print and on TV with The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Forbes, CNBC, and others.

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