Your Interview Has Already Begun

Whether you’re interviewing for B-school or for a job afterwards, there are a few basic rules to follow for interview etiquette. Over the years I’ve had the chance to interview hundreds of potential employees and I’ve seen every interview misstep there is. Everyone knows there are plenty of ways to go wrong once you’re in the interview room, but few people pay attention to the ways your interview can go south before you even take a seat in that conference room or office. Here are three ways I’ve personally seen candidates hurt their chances before the interview even got started:

  1. Parking – Plan ahead for parking if you plan on driving to the interview. Call ahead and find out if the school or business has a parking lot or structure and whether there will be a spot available and whether it is free, validated, etc. It is unprofessional to run out midway through the interview to feed the meter. I recommend you bite the bullet and pay the $6 for parking in their structure instead of trying to save a few bucks at a meter with a 1 hour limit. NEVER park in a reserved spot unless they explicitly tell you that you can, and don’t park in a handicap space unless you have a placard.
  2. Bring a Pen – A nice fountain pen, preferably, but anything is better than nothing. If you’re applying for a job, you’ll likely have to fill out some paperwork; you’ll look more prepared if you don’t have to ask to borrow a pen.
  3. Be Polite to Everyone – Remember that everyone you meet on the way to the interview could influence the outcome. The guard at the security booth at the entrance may have to phone ahead to let the interviewer know you’ve arrived. Don’t give him the opportunity to say “the extremely rude gentleman with the 3 o’clock is here!” The same goes with receptionists and anyone you pass in the hallways. If you yell at the receptionist for not validating your parking, the interviewer is sure to hear about it.
  4. If You’re On Time, You’re Late – Plan on arriving early to allow for traffic, parking, and exchanging pleasantries with everyone you meet on the way to the interview room. You can also use this time to relax and mentally prepare before the interview. Calling ahead is fine if you’re going to be late because of traffic, car trouble, etc., but if you planned on arriving early, being late would mean you’re on time and you wouldn’t need to explain anything, if that makes sense!
  5. Dress the PartBespoke or not, a suit is better than jeans for interviews, even if the office environment is casual. A good rule of thumb is that it never hurts to be the best-dressed person you see that day. Use your judgment with respect to piercings and tattoos. I’ve interviewed candidates with tattoos and piercings and they don’t bother me, but your interviewer might not be as forgiving.