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Career tip: Interviewing etiquette May 30, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.


During an interview, you are assessed for many things. Mainly it will be on your abilities as a scientist. Mainly. But interviewers, particularly supervisors and managers, look at personality. They want someone who will fit into their organization, not be a disruptive interference to teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. Since doing this is often akin to reading tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, you cannot rely on just a firm handshake and a pleasant smile.

There could be numerous articles written on making a good impression during an interview. But my emphasis in this short piece will be to focus on an area that is often overlooked, but which makes impressions – etiquette.

In some companies, interviewers are told to actually focus on things like what and how the interviewee ordered for lunch or dinner. Confidence during this can make an impression. I have even heard more than one that a choice of meal can be a negative.

If the candidate comes in with the attitude that this is a free meal from the host company and orders something very expense, this can be taken as a frivolous nature or several other negative attitudes. Usually ordering something in the mid0range of price is better. I have heard the excuse that the employees hosting ordered expensive dishes. They are not being interviewed. If you are tainted by their excess, the manager will still not be favorably impressed by you.

Other points of etiquette generally fall in the areas of politeness and decorum. You assume that everyone be addressed formally as Mr. So-and-so or Ms. This-or-that. You cannot fail by doing that. Candidates are expected to sometimes overdo politenesses. If the workplace is more casual, the person will tell you that you may use a first name. When you are being escorted, let that person introduce you to people. That is decorum. Your escort will think nothing if you let that happen, but might have a negative response if you take the initiative from her or him.

You cannot say “Please”, “Thank you”, and “You are welcome” too often. Some people expect that. Others will be surprised by it, but most often positively.

Beforehand, you ought to ask about expected dress. If you are traveling to a place, this is more often work formal, a suit or coat and tie for men and something analogous for women (a pantsuit or dress or blazer and skirt outfit that is suitable for a non-casual workplace). It is better to assume more formality than less. People accept it better that an interviewee is overdressed than if underdressed.

Small things, like holding a door open for someone following you into (or out) of a building might create a better impression. Your purpose throughout is to project the best image that you can. These things may seem simple to some of you. That is good. You can do them without much thinking. But for others, you want everything to be a positive for you.



1. The Chemist - May 31, 2009

A friend of mine is fond of the old saw, “You dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Sometimes I wonder if all the new advice that goes out to the prospective employees trying to impress is doomed to become the next old benchmark.

2. organikchemist - June 3, 2009

It is simply amazing how hard it is for some people to interview. The bad ones fall into two catagories, as far as i can tell: the arrogant or the unprepared. Being arrogant AND unprepared is rare, but a treat nonetheless to see.

3. John Fetzer - June 4, 2009

I, unfortunately, have run into that combination. I thought “Why was this person even asked to visit?”

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