Staying professional in a job interview may seem like an easy enough task, but do job seekers really know what that looks like to recruiters nowadays?
Only about 20% of applicants make it to the interview round in the application process, according to training and learning platform Simplilearn, which means that it's important to make the time in front of recruiters count. Resume Genius recently listed a guide to help job seekers navigate their interviews successfully.
"Interviews offer a chance to really connect with the employer — beyond just a candidate's resume, cover letter, or portfolio," says Eva Chan, career expert at Resume Genius "In 2024, we're seeing more layoffs and competition in the job market, and employers are going to be choosier about who they hire, which means prioritizing professionalism during an interview can significantly impact your success in securing a position."
In the years after the pandemic, the workforce has evolved to prioritize employees' work and their lives, and the interview process has done the same. Modern interviews are more relaxed and conversational as employers seek employees whose values and personalities align with the company. That being said, it is still paramount for applicants to find ways to stay professional while showcasing their true selves.
Job seekers can prepare for interviews by researching the companies they're interviewing with and better understanding what experience and skills recruiters are looking for, according to Chan.
"It's also easy for applicants to forget that interviewers want them to do well," she says. "Interviewers are evaluators, but they're also potential colleagues who genuinely want candidates to succeed. Not approaching the interview with this mindset is a mistake, whereas doing so can help you feel more at ease and engage in more natural and effective communication."
See what tips and tricks Chan shared on how to navigate the modern-day interview process while staying professional.
Dress to the company's culture
"What really matters here is effort. Employers want to see that you care about getting this role, and one easy way to show effort is to dress well. First impressions matter a ton. Applicants should show hiring personnel that they care about the job and they've done their part to look professional, but of course, most employers do know that even if a good employee isn't wearing a suit, it doesn't mean they're going to be a bad employee.
Diversity and inclusion policies are also making it easier to express your individuality at the workplace, but showing you care about this role is key here, and something that immediately sets a positive impression is the way you dress and how put together you look. I wouldn't recommend showing up to a work interview in anything super casual, even if that's what the workplace culture appears to be. If you're really unsure and want to show you're putting in effort, dress a level above the company's dress code. A little overdressed is still better than being underdressed."
Keep your social media profiles clean
"As long as you aren't doing anything illegal or wildly inappropriate on social media, you'll be fine. Some employers care about culture fit, so be mindful about any political views you share, and whether you're bashing other employers or people online. Ultimately, employers are here to find applicants who are a great fit for the job and can stay long-term, and seeing a ton of red flags on your social media profiles like hate speech or long, politically-charged rambles isn't a good look."
Make sure conversation is respectful
"Applicants should avoid having poor body language and tone — beyond giving a poor handshake, which is a given, avoid fidgeting or fiddling with anything during the interview and sounding unprepared or unconfident. Preparation plays a big part in this, as sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is a good communicator with great body language through a video call. To show you're a professional with good body language, look at the interviewer when speaking, listen attentively, and show that you can keep up with social cues like smiling and nodding at the right times.
I also recommend that applicants take time to pause and think about the question they're being asked before rushing in to answer. Employers understand that it's a nerve-racking process, so be easy on yourself and take some time to answer well and not just for the sake of saying something."
"Hearing stories of how applicants have overcome adversity can be profoundly insightful. However, it's key for candidates to connect these experiences directly to the job role and demonstrate how they've emerged stronger and more skilled. Hiring managers particularly appreciate when these personal narratives are relevant to the company's values and objectives. Showing some of your personality and talking about your hobbies is fine.
Applicants should also be describing not just the journey of overcoming challenges, but also how these experiences have equipped them with unique strengths and perspectives that can contribute positively to the company's mission and culture. And when it comes to language, it's best to avoid swearing and overuse of slang — even if the company seems like a place where you can speak however you want."