A Guide to College Interview Etiquette
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Be Punctual
- Dress Appropriately
- Turn Off Your Phone
- Practice Your Greeting
- Practice Your Body Language
- Send a Thank You Note
In this post, we examine general rules of etiquette for college interviews. For more information on doing a college interview, check out this article on the questions to never ask.
One of the most important etiquette rules for interviews is punctuality. Make sure you’re on time or even better, arrive early. You don’t need to show up to the interview 45 minutes before it begins—waiting around that long could cause you to get too much in your own head and stress out—but aim to arrive at least 10 minutes early to get your bearings and prepare. This applies to virtual interviews too.
Dressing properly is crucial for a college interview. Find out what the dress code is beforehand, if there is one, and keep in mind that it’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.
If you don’t have a dress code to work from, at least avoid extremes when choosing clothes. Dressing extremely casually, such as wearing flip-flops and cargo shorts, can give the impression that you’re not treating the interview as something serious and important. Conversely, wearing something too formal, such as a three-piece suit and a tie, could be seen as overly professional, affecting the down-to-earth, conversational style that many interviewers prefer. Aim for the middle of the fashion road.
Turn Off Your Phone
Keep your phone off for the duration of the interview. It may be tempting to switch on “Do Not Disturb,” but turning off your phone completely will eliminate any risk of it buzzing or ringing during the interview. Phones can be a big distraction, and you don’t want to be thinking about anything else during your interview.
Practice Your Greeting
Before your interview, practice how you’ll greet your interviewer. A firm handshake while making eye contact is best. It will signal that you’re confident and invested in the interview and the interviewer, who has taken time out of their day to meet you.
Another way to make a strong first impression is by greeting your interviewer by name: “Hello, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. ____. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.” If you’re unsure how to pronounce your interviewer’s name, ask them to say it for you when you meet, rather than guess and pronounce it incorrectly.
Practice Your Body Language
You want your strong first impression to continue throughout the interview. One way to accomplish this is by being aware of your body language, such as hand gestures. It’s reasonable to expect that you’ll use hand gestures while you talk, but try to keep them contained so they’re not distracting to the interviewer.
Be sure to sit up straight and avoid slouching or fidgeting. You don’t need to sit rigidly still throughout the interview, but maintaining mature composure will signal that you’re engaged and confident.
It’s also important to smile. It’s been scientifically demonstrated that smiles are contagious, so smiling will work subconsciously to boost your interviewer’s mood and your own. After all, everyone loves to see happy people.
Send a Thank You Note
Finally, after your interview, it’s common courtesy to send a thank you note or email to your interviewer. You can ask for their contact information if you don’t already have it. To help them remember you, mention something specific that you discussed in your interview.
Interviewers appreciate being thanked for their time, and a thank you note also has the benefit of jogging their memory and keeping your interview performance top-of-mind.