Do’s and Don’ts at Interviews


Practice Good Nonverbal Communication

It begins even before you say your first word in an interview. As the interviewer walks toward you to shake hands, an opinion is already being formed. It's about demonstrating confidence: standing straight, making eye contact and connecting with a good, firm handshake. That first impression can be a great beginning -- or quick ending -- to your interview.  And don't underestimate the value of a smile. In addition to the enthusiasm it expresses to the interviewer, smiling often makes you feel better about yourself.

Nonverbal Messages:

  • The Handshake: It's your first encounter with the interviewer. She holds out her hand and receives a limp, damp hand in return -- not a very good beginning. Your handshake should be firm -- not bone-crushing -- and your hand should be dry and warm. Try running cold water on your hands when you first arrive at the interview site.
  • Your Posture: Stand and sit tall. Show some energy and enthusiasm. A slouching posture looks tired and uncaring.
  • Eye Contact: Look the interviewer in the eye. You don't want to stare, but be sure to make sure your eyes meet frequently. Avoid constantly looking around the room while you are talking, because that can convey nervousness or a lack of confidence with what is being discussed.
  • Your Hands: Gesturing or talking with your hands is very natural, but keep it in moderation. Getting carried away with hand gestures can be distracting. Also, avoid touching your mouth while talking.
  • Don't Fidget: There is nothing worse than people playing with their hair, clicking pen tops, tapping feet or unconsciously touching parts of the body.

Preparing what you have to say is important, but practicing how you will say it is imperative. The nonverbal message can speak louder than the verbal message you're sending. 

Dress for the Job or Company

Today's casual dress codes do not give you permission to dress as "they" do when you interview.  It is important to look professional and well-groomed. Whether you wear a suit or something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking.


From the very beginning of the interview, your interviewer is giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not hearing it, you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting the person know you heard what was said. Observe your interviewer, and match that style and pace.

Don't Be Over Confident

Attitude plays a key role in your interview success. There is a fine balance between confidence, professionalism and modesty. Even if you're putting on a performance to demonstrate your ability, overconfidence is as bad, if not worse, as being too reserved.

Don't Appear Desperate

When you interview with the "please, please hire me" approach, you appear desperate and less confident. Maintain the three C's during the interview: cool, calm and confident. You know you can do the job; make sure the interviewer believes you can, too.

Don't Talk Too Much

Telling the interviewer more than he needs to know could be a fatal mistake.  When you have not prepared ahead of time, you may tend to ramble, sometimes talking yourself right out of the job. Prepare for the interview by reading through the job description, matching these to your skills and relating only that information.

Your response should be less than a minute and a half when an interviewer asks you to tell me about yourself. Why? You'll have that interviewer's attention for just about 90 seconds.

An interviewer's attention level can be nearly impossible to detect, because most people are skilled at nodding their heads and saying "hmmm" while looking at you, all in an effort to disguise their wandering minds. The longer you speak without interruption, the less attention the listener is giving you. Hence, when you provide a long answer that builds to an important conclusion, often the interviewer is no longer listening.

Use Appropriate Language

It is one of the most important rules that you should use professional language during the interview. Be aware of any inappropriate slang words or references to age, race, religion, politics or sexual orientation.

Remember not to use expressions like “yeah”, “yep”, “ahha”, “hmm”, “umm”, “eh?”, “aye”, “thingy”, “you know what I mean”, “like that thing” so on… These may widely used in everyday language perfectly acceptable, but during an interview usage of these will make you look unprofessional.

Don't Be Too Familiar

The interview is a professional meeting to talk business. This is not about making a new friend. Your level of familiarity should mimic the interviewer's demeanour. It is important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the interview and to ask questions, but do not overstep your place as a candidate looking for a job.

If you say you are excited about the prospect of working for this company but don't show any enthusiasm, your message will probably fall flat. So smile, gesture once in a while, show some energy and breathe life into the interview experience.

Don’t Try to Make a So-Called Weakness Seem Positive

Interviewers frequently ask candidates, What are your weaknesses?" Conventional interview wisdom dictates that you highlight a weakness like "I'm a perfectionist," and turn it into a positive. Interviewers are not impressed, because they've probably heard the same answer a hundred times. If you are asked this question, highlight a skill that you wish to improve upon and describe what you are doing to enhance your skill in this area. Interviewers don't care what your weaknesses are. They want to see how you handle the question and what your answer indicates about you.

Take Care to Answer the Questions

Candidates intellectually prepare by researching the company. Most job seekers do not research themselves by taking inventory of their experience, knowledge and skills. Formulating a list of accomplishments prepares you to immediately respond to any question about your experience.  You must be prepared to discuss any part of your background. Creating your talent inventory refreshes your memory and helps you immediately remember experiences you would otherwise have forgotten during the interview.  

Ask Questions

When asked if they have any questions, most candidates answer, "No." Wrong answer. It is extremely important to ask questions to demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Having no questions prepared indicates you are not interested and not prepared.  Before each interview, make a list of five questions you will ask.

Also some of the best questions come from listening to what is asked during the interview and asking for additional information. Asking questions can also give you a strategic edge. 

Have a list of good business questions to ask. Some of these may have come from the research that you will have conducted on the company. Examples of these include: What are you most hoping to find in the person you hire? What are the greatest challenges in this position? What would be my first priorities on the job? Is there anything more I could tell you about my background that would help you understand my suitability for this role? Remember a lack of questions may be interpreted as a lack of interest.

Know your subject matter

Be able to articulate it well with real examples that demonstrate your value-add to your previous employers. Real examples highlight your attributes and substantiate your claims that you may have made on your CV. Most people have a good selection of these but are not good at telling the history in a clear, succinct and meaningful way that clearly highlights the skills, experience or expertise that the prospective employer is looking for.

Read your CV or Application form:

It my sound unnecessary - but consider that your CV managed to get you to interview and it is generally all that the interviewer has to work on before you get there. A good interviewer should have reviewed this carefully and want to explore some parts of it in depth. Be able to expand on parts of it and relate the relevant parts and demonstrate your value add to your previous employers. In particular, consider your previous experience against the requirements of the new role. Consider carefully the areas that match and fall short of the job description and be prepared to answer all aspects of this. Use the STAR technique.


 Arrive in good time. Prepare for delays in traffic. Nothing is worse that arriving late for an interview.

Look the part

Dress, and the way you act is important and will influence people. If possible, check your appearance in a mirror before you go into the interview. First impressions are quickly made in the first few minutes. People can also form an opinion from viewing someone approaching a building.


Do listen to the question carefully. If you are not sure that you fully understand it - ask for clarification.

Be positive

Your attitude and general outlook will be noticed and will influence the decision.


Research the company and people you will be meeting. It is obvious when candidates have not researched the position, company or industry prior to the interview. The more you can find out before the interview the better you will be able to make the right impression. Research will also enable you to ask some intelligent questions about their current business issues. Learn pertinent facts about the company such as turnover, principal lines of business and locations, share price and general history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer why their company is attractive to you.

Be Polite to everyone

Many companies take inputs from all their staff including the receptionist and secretaries. Make sure you are courteous to all. You should consider yourself to be on 'interview' from the moment you enter the car park.

Be Honest

If you do not know the answer to something - don't pretend you do. However it is normally quite possible to still give a positive answer, either by explaining how you would approach a given problem or relating to something similar in your past. But make sure that the interviewer understands what you are saying and does not think you are just giving an inappropriate answer.

Sell yourself

Most people are not practiced at selling themselves and this is a common reason why they can come as second choice and not be offered the post. You must give the interviewer sufficient reason to want to 'buy' you for the role above the other contenders. Whatever question the interviewer asks, the underlying question is 'Why should I hire you?' Couch your answers to sell yourself and answer this key question. Practice explaining your achievements so that you clearly demonstrate your personal contribution. The product you are selling is you. Give them reasons to buy. Tell them what you can do for them with examples from your past. Emphasize what you can bring to the company. Convince them that your product is better than the other candidates. Use the STAR technique.

Anticipate questions

Think about the questions that are likely to arise. Work against the job description and person specification, plus any other material that will help you understand the buying need of the company. Consider your experience and ability against those criteria and in particular, areas of good and poor match. Be prepared to answer questions covering all aspects.


Do show enthusiasm. If you are interested in the opportunity, enthusiastic feedback can enhance your chances of being considered further. If you are not interested, your responsiveness will still demonstrate your professionalism for other opportunities that you may not even know about within the company. There is no better sales pitch than enthusiasm. Show enthusiasm for the role, the company and the challenges


You should have at least three referees and their contact information. Make sure that you get their permission first, as well as their preferred method of contact. You should also send them a copy of your CV so they will know what you have claimed about yourself.


Say Thank You

Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. If you have fully answered the two questions 'Why are you interested in this position and company' and 'What can you offer', you cannot do much more, except for the follow up letter.


Don't answer with a simple 'yes' or 'no.'

Whenever with possible explain with examples that demonstrate your claims. Keep your answers relevant to the key issues of the role. Use questions as an opportunity to sell yourself.

Don't lie.

Answer questions truthfully, frankly and succinctly.

Don't make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.

If there were issues, limit your comments to those necessary to adequately communicate your rationale of moving.

Don't inquire about salary, holidays, bonuses, benefits etc. on the first interview unless the interviewer raises the issue.

If the interviewer asks what salary you want, indicate what you have been earning but emphasis that you are more interested in the right opportunity than in a specific salary level. If you are working with a head-hunter or agency, let them handle the salary issue for you, as they are more likely to get a better deal than you.