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Interviewing Etiquette

Good etiquette is mandatory

I'm always surprised by how many candidates self-sabotage by having poor interview etiquette. Interviews are the time to put your best foot forward. Companies know this and will assume that if you have poor etiquette at your best, then your day-to-day is probably worse.

Things to keep in the back of your mind

As always, this is not an exhaustive list of ways to have good interview etiquette, but hopefully you get the idea.

  • Show up on time. I have settled on five minutes early as a good time to be at the interview (either virtually or in-person). If virtual, make sure everything has been tested ahead of time and you're logged in at least right no time. In person can have a bunch of additional risk: traffic accidents, subway delays, etc. I personally would rather eat lunch or have a coffee next door to the interview for half an hour than risk being late.
  • Thank people for their time. Being an interviewer is hard and coordinating interviews is hard. Thank everyone (recruiters, coordinators, interviewers) for their time and assistance. It's the right thing to do and also reflects well upon you.
  • Be friendly, gracious, and positive. Attitude is so important in interviews. We often spend so much time thinking about cracking coding challenges that we forget that we're interacting with a human. Try to act like someone your interviewer would want to work with on a day-to-day basis.
  • Don't be critical of the company or its processes. When asking questions about how the company or project operates, you might find something that strikes you as not being a best practice. That's okay—there's actually probably a good reason they do things the way they do and, if not, maybe you can help fix things! But what you shouldn't do is start telling the interviewer they need to fix their processes. This actually happens! Don't do it unless the interviewer explicitly invites you to (e.g., "we're having trouble doing [x] given the constraints, I'm wondering how you would approach the problem.").
  • Know about the company, its values, and what you would be working on. Every company wants to feel special. It's worth it to take 30 minutes or so to read through a company's values and learn about whatever product you'd be working on.
  • Be honest/forthright. It can be pretty obvious when you're making up a scenario to fit a question. Hopefully you have examples for each behavioral question, but if not, it's okay. Do your best to redirect to a hypotentical answer instead (e.g., "I'm not sure I have a great example of this from my past, but how I would generally want to approach a situation like this is...").
  • Ask questions that demonstrate your interest in the role. Ask questions about how the team operates, how the product fits into the organization's vision, and really anything else that makes you seem interested in the role. Note: I hope you actually are interested in the role, but at the very least you should make sure you appear to be interested.

Etiquette is a two-way street

Interviews are also a company's chance to put its best foot forward. If you feel disrespected or mistreated during an interview, make note of that. If this is how they treat candidates they're trying to woo, they might treat employees even worse.