Most of these are pretty basic common sense but you would be surprised how often they are overlooked, as I will illustrate at the end.
Shake hands firmly, and wait until you are offered a chair to sit down.
Don't set your stuff down on the interviewer's desk.
Be polite, without overdoing the "Yes sirs," "No sirs," and "Thank yous."
Don't talk ill of your former boss or about companies/firms that turned you down.
Ask questions relevant to the job at issue.
Don't watch the clock.
Look the interviewer in the eye while speaking.
Don't try to be funny.
Realize that if your cell phone rings during an interview, it probably means it’s time to go home.
Some interviewers are more critical than others but all are very attentive to detail so you should be aware of every body gesture, statement and question in an interview. They are all being assessed as this true story will underscore.
A lawyer had been screened by the legal department of a major Los Angeles corporation. His references had been checked and the staff attorneys had voted to proceed with an offer. The final meeting, thought to be a rubberstamp, was a lunch meeting with the General Counsel. The lunch seemingly went well and ended with a promise to be in touch soon. Shortly thereafter the recruiter involved received a phone call saying no offer was being made. When asked why, the response was that the candidate had salted his food before tasting it and because the General Counsel thought no sensible person would do that, he couldn’t possibly be a good lawyer. He nixed his candidacy.
The moral of the story is that the interviewing process is a courtship. Once you have tied the knot, little transgressions will generally be overlooked or forgiven but during the decision phase they are critical and often can be fatal. Details matter.
(For a more detailed discussion of interviewing, particularly for law students, click here.)