Interview Etiquette Tips for College Graduates

Many college students are job hunting and dreaming of interviewing for their ideal job before the summer ends. Interviews are the key to landing your perfect career and there are a few rules of interview etiquette to keep in mind before you enter the room.


1. Be respectful of the interviewer’s time.

Before sending out your resume, make sure your skills are compatible with the job post.

2. Arrive prepared to answer 3 standard questions:

“Why did you leave your last job?”

Avoid saying anything negative about your last employer. Rather, respond with an answer such as, “I have always aspired to work for a larger company  where my potential for advanced training and growth could be realized.”

“What is your greatest strength?”

The interviewer is not asking about your athletic ability or extensive knowledge of the most popular movies. Your response to this question will give the interviewer a clear indication as to your level of confidence and whether you are a solid fit for their company.  Prepare for this question by carefully reading and understanding the job post and focusing on skills and traits that will benefit the position.  If you do not have a professional track record as of yet, focus on what assets you bring to the company such as, “I am self motivated, detail oriented, and an excellent communicator.  I enjoy working with people and look forward to challenges.”  Or, if you have previous job experience, “I have a documented track record of increasing annual sales by 30% over the past 3 years.”

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Take a negative and explain how you understand the importance of striving for improvement.  Say something like “I have difficulty delegating because I want to do it all.  I am however, working on letting go and allowing others to help.”

3. Know the interview basics:

Bring your resume, a note pad and pen.

  • Your resume should be tailored to the particular job opening.
  • The cover letter should include a specific name, “Dear Mr. Smith”, not “Dear Sir/Ma’am” or “To whom it may concern”.

Ask appropriate questions:

  • “What future career path does this position follow?”
  • “How many employees have been in this position and where are they now?”
  • “How does this position tie into the growth of the company?”

4. Confidently address any gaps in your resume. 

Address the gap by explaining what you did during this time to enhance your job skills. Use a statement such as “I have been taking night courses in business while looking for a job during the day.  I also volunteer my time at a local nonprofit by using my accounting experience in their finance department.”

5. Be prepared to answer the question “Why were you fired?”

You will derail your chances of getting the job if you make excuses or blame your boss or coworkers. First and foremost be honest (never, ever lie). A response such as “I was admittedly not a fit for my last position; however, I can confidently say that I learned a great deal while working there and feel certain that the experience I gained will benefit my next employer.”

6. Be creative in your job search.

  • Don’t put your entire effort in Internet searches – select an organization that you want to work for and offer your services as an intern or volunteer.
  • Join a networking group in the field you are interested in pursuing.
  • Visit job fairs and regularly communicate with your Career Service’s office.
  • Find a professional mentor.  Learn as much as you can and take every opportunity to ask questions.
  • Enroll your parents’ friends and professional associates in the job search.  (Note: Your parents do not belong in the interview, physically, or as a verbal follow up.  Even if they opened doors for you in the interview process, it is now up to you to handle everything from this point forward.)

7. Makeup and good grooming are a “must” (i.e. no facial hair, visible tattoos, multiple earrings, loud jewelry)

Ask someone you trust to provide his or her honest opinion regarding your grooming and interview attire.  Every detail counts when you are competing with several other people for the same position.

8. Send a thank you note. 

Send out a thank you note the same day, reiterating your enthusiasm and interest in the job.  Mention that you will follow up in a few days and look forward to being considered for the position.  Recheck your spelling and grammar before mailing out the note.

9. Your job may only be a telephone call away.

If you have not heard from the interviewer after a few days, don’t hesitate to call and say, “I am very interested in the position and wanted to follow up to see when a final decision will be made.”

Best of luck with the job hunt,



Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. says

    Hi nice information.
    The day of interview is real day in life to take your career in the direction which you dreamed about. I remember when I just finished my college and got the first interview call. That was quit nerve-racking and quite stressful for me as it was my first interview experience.
    Most important thing I experienced is being a nervous in interview can spoil your career. So get practicing yourself is the only key to achieve success in it. You mentioned very important point here which everyone should keep in mind before and after interview.

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