How Best To Act When First Entering An Interview Room

First impressions matter, especially when you’re interviewing for a job.

That means there are rules of etiquette to follow even before the interview begins, including how best to carry yourself and how you begin interacting with interviewers.

The first moments of an interview can make or break your candidacy.

According to a survey by Twin Employment and Training, roughly one-third of recruiters decide whether they will hire you within the first minute and a half. Yes, just 90 seconds. Similarly, expert Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. believes candidates only have seven seconds to make your first impression.

That’s a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t mean you have to stress.

If you come prepared to make a stellar impression from the moment you walk into an interview, you’ll greatly up your chances of landing any job you seek.

Make a powerful first impression

It’s a lot of work to prepare for an interview.

You do extensive research on a company, update your resume, jot down some talking points — even guess what questions you will be asked. You may even practice your responses in a mock interview.

But it’s important to take some time thinking about that initial contact you’ll have with an interviewer, especially if there will be multiple people interviewing you at once.

Thinking about these first moments can prove to be just as important as the interview itself. 

So what’s the etiquette when first entering an interview room? The following should be considered: 

  1. How You Announce Yourself
  2. Your Overall Appearance
  3. The Right Amount of Eye Contact
  4. A Genuine Smile
  5. The Handshake
  6. Where You Take A Seat
  7. Using Formal Language
  8. Using Small Talk
  9. Taking Note of Your Surroundings
An hiring manager standing up to shake the hand of an interviewee.

Introduce yourself as you enter the room

Creating a great first impression when you begin an interview actually begins before you physically enter the room.

For some interviews, you may greet someone first before entering the interview room. In that case, follow their lead.

Make sure they walk ahead of you and enter the interview space first. Wait for them to welcome you into the room. 

It’s a different story entirely if you are told directly to meet at a certain place and you’re alone.

The first important step: always knock first and wait for a response. When you hear a “come in,” open the door and introduce yourself before entering: “Hello, I’m [Your Name Here] and I’m here for the [job title here] interview.” 

If the dress code is in doubt always dress up for an interview

Another big part of your first impression happens before you take a seat. Make sure you are dressed professionally. When the dress code is in doubt, always dress “up” rather than dress down.

This generally means common professional attire — a suit, tie, and jacket, or a dress or pantsuit. Don’t wear anything too flashy or revealing.

You want to be remembered for what you say in your interview and the skills you would bring to the position — not for your distracting clothing choices.

It’s not just about what you wear. Make sure your hair is brushed and your clothes are as wrinkle-free as possible. It’s the details that count at this stage. 

These little things count. According to one survey, 71% of employers will disregard an applicant who doesn’t follow a professional dress code

And don’t enter an interview room with anything but yourself and perhaps copies of your resume and business cards. Don’t walk in with coffee or water or — yikes — food. You might consider bringing notes; you shouldn’t rely on them for an interview as if you do you’ll be inclined to use them as a crutch throughout an interview.

An interviewer talks to a smiling job applicant at a circular table.

Making eye contact leaves a strong impression on interviewers

You probably know that making eye contact leaves a strong impression on anyone you meet.

It shows interest and respect.

It’s one of the best approaches to showcasing your engaging nature. People trust those who make eye contact.

That’s all especially true before you begin a job interview. Twin Employment and Training found that 65% of applicants who don’t maintain good eye contact during an interview won’t get the job.

Good eye contact begins when you enter the interview room.

Establish it early, when you formally meet your interviewer or the multiple interviewers.

Make eye contact when you introduce yourself and after you settle in for the interview. Eye contact conveys your professionalism and sends a signal to the other person that you respect them and are listening to everything they are saying.

And, of course, start the interview off with a broad smile. 

Your interviewer will remember a solid handshake

What’s even more important than eye contact?

That would be the way you greet who is interviewing you.

While making eye contact, be sure to extend your hand and produce a handshake that’s firm, but not too tight.

A good handshake has been proven to not only put the person you’re interacting with at ease quickly but is an effective way to show your confidence as a professional and that you believe you are the candidate best suited for the job.

People remember solid handshakes, so make each one count. 

Wait to be asked to take a seat

Another small way to make a big impression is by listening carefully before you take a seat when entering a room.

After the handshakes and hellos, wait for someone to either instruct you to sit down or tell you where you can sit. Don’t sit down right away or presume to know where you should sit.

It may sound ultra-cautious — and it may be — but it does show how considerate you are — and will be.

Use formal language

Your professionalism isn’t just conveyed by how you look when you enter a room. That also comes from using proper interview language.

Talk as formally as possible, especially at first. That means integrating “Sir” and “Ma’am” in your introductions, but also a concise yet proper thank you. For example, “Thank you for the interview. It is a pleasure to meet you.” 

You don’t want to sound stiff, but you should find that sweet spot in your language where it sounds natural but respectful.

Small tweaks count here. Say “Yes” instead of “Yeah.” Don’t use slang, be courteous, and read the room.

Especially at the start of an interview, default to formal language. If things relax during the interview, it may be an indication that it’s OK to be less formal, but still professional.

An intense conversation being had between a manager and one of their staff.

Engage in small talk

Your conversational skills will put your interviewers at ease and help to convey a sense of who you are as a person and how well you will fit in a certain work environment.

This begins right away. Someone may compliment the color of your dress or your tie. They may make comments about the weather.

If they know you’re an alumnus of a certain college (they may mention that they went there), or mention the outcome of a recent big game involving the college’s sports teams. They may simply just ask if you found the building easily.

Prepare for this type of interaction and listen for it.

Answer quickly and confidently and, if appropriate, ask a small-talk question of your own.

Find common ground with your interviewer

Be on alert when you enter an interview room because what you see can help create a collegial atmosphere with interviews.

If you’re in an office, look around for a bit to get a feel for your interviewer’s interests. Do they have photos from a place you’ve visited and loved? Do they have a poster of a sports team you’re a big fan of? Do they have a picture of their pet to compliment them on?

This is a good way to ease your nerves and get things off to a fantastic start as soon as you enter an interview room.

Closing notes

A successful interview isn’t just about answering questions well or offering a specialized set of skills. Think about the big picture; you’re selling yourself. As soon as you set foot into an interview room, make yourself shine in the best way possible.

Act respectfully, look sharp, and show them what they would be missing by turning you away.

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