Business etiquette is made up of significantly more important things than knowing which fork to use at lunch with a client. People may feel that if you can’t be trusted not to embarrass yourself in business and social situations, you may lack the self-control necessary to be good at what you do. Etiquette is about presenting yourself with the kind of polish that shows you can be taken seriously. Etiquette is also about being comfortable around people (and making them comfortable around you!)
Being a good conversationalist
To be a successful conversationalist, you must also believe that listening is power. Because our society places so much emphasis on speaking as the way to win friends and influence people, good listeners can quietly have a powerful and subversive impact. You should also remember that speakers have little power without listeners. Speakers share their wisdom and try to persuade, but listeners make meaning of what is heard — they make the ultimate decision to act on what they hear.
When it comes to talking during an interview, sometimes less is more. As a general rule, you should speak one-third of the time and definitely no more than half of the time. That’s because the best interviews have a give-and-take atmosphere where you’re discussing who the company is looking for, why you’re the right candidate and how having you on board will solve the firm’s challenges. To do this, you need to ask questions and try to draw out your interviewer rather than talking about yourself nonstop.
Employers use telephone interviews as a way of identifying and recruiting candidates for employment. Phone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used as way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates.
While you’re actively job searching, it’s important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moments notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk.
Good phone ability is a requirement of almost every job at all levels. This is a chance to demonstrate your phone communications skills. Face-to-face communication consists of three elements: words, tone of voice and body language. But when communicating by telephone, there is no physical contact, no observable body language. So what you say (the words you use) and your tone of voice become much more important, as does your ability to listen and respond. The words you use on the telephone should be positive.
Use words like “challenge, solution, success, we, I, our, your, opportunity, can, good, between assignments.” Avoid words like “can’t, won’t, don’t, haven’t, unsuccessful, failure, problem, bad, unemployed, retired, fired.”
Stand while doing a phone interview. Smile into the phone. The tone of your voice should be clear and enthusiastic. Don’t sound disinterested, mumble words or be monotonous in your tone. Don’t chew gum, smoke or eat during phone interview. Get your thoughts in order. Be prepared to tell the prospective employer why you want the job, and why you are qualified for it. Use the opportunity to gather more information about the opening and the company.
Do your homework. Take time to conduct preliminary research on prospective employers. This will allow you to ask targeted questions during your conversation and give you a competitive edge when it comes to securing an opportunity to interview in person. Be prepared. Create a “hot sheet” for every job for which you apply, and keep it close to the phone for easy accessibility. Your list should include the name of the hiring authority, questions you want to ask and points you’d like to make during the interview. Also, have a copy of your resume on hand. Speak formally. Approach the phone interview with the same business etiquette as you would a face-to-face interview. And smile as you answer questions, so that you come across as friendly and enthusiastic. Listen carefully. You’ll show the interviewer you have good communication skills, and it will give you time to decide how you want to answer a given question.
Table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression. They are visible signals of the state of our manners and therefore are essential to professional success. Regardless of whether we are having lunch with a prospective employer or dinner with a business associate, our manners can speak volumes about us as professionals.
As you arrive at the table, wait until the person with the highest seniority sits before taking your seat. Immediately place your napkin on your lap as you seat yourself. If you must leave during the meal, place your napkin on the seat–not on the table. Don’t start eating until your host or hostess begins.
If, after looking over the menu, there are items you are uncertain about, ask your server any questions you may have. Answering your questions is part of the server’s job. It is better to find out before you order that a dish is prepared with something you do not like or are allergic to than to spend the entire meal picking tentatively at your food. An employer will generally suggest that your order be taken first; his or her order will be taken last. Sometimes, however, the server will decide how the ordering will proceed. Often, women’s orders are taken before men’s. As a guest, you should not order one of the most expensive items on the menu or more than two courses unless your host indicates that it is all right. If the host says, “I’m going to try this delicious sounding cheesecake; why don’t you try dessert too,” or “The prime rib is the specialty here; I think you’d enjoy it,” then it is all right to order that item if you would like.
Use the outside utensils first and work your way in. Once you use a utensil, it should not touch the tablecloth again. While not using your utensils, rest them slanted across the right front side of your plate. Make sure that the blade of your knife is facing you. Never leave a spoon in a bowl of soup or cup of coffee. The plates under bowls and cups are there for your utensils.
The general rule for spills or accidents is hands off. Don’t clean up spills with your own napkin and don’t touch items that have dropped on the floor. You can use your napkin to protect yourself from spills. Then, simply and politely ask your server to clean up and to bring you a replacement for the soiled napkin or dirty utensil. If the item you drop is obstructing a walkway, you can brush it out of the way with your foot until the server can remove it. The basic reasoning behind the hands off rule is that a spill shouldn’t disrupt the meal for too long, and while you are eating you shouldn’t be cleaning things that will make your hands dirty.
PROPER DRESS FOR THE INTERVIEW
Your appearance tells people how you feel about yourself as an applicant; it also tells how you feel about the interviewer(s), the company, and the interview process itself. Professional attire tells people you understand the niceties of business life, and can be trusted to represent your employer to people outside the company. It also encourages the interviewer to take you and what you say seriously, and gives you a boost in self-image and confidence – all of which are important advantages.
Dress for Men
Conservative color for a suit, i.e. blue, gray, black
A white collared shirt with a conservative tie, no wild patterns (or cartoon characters)
Socks need to match suit
Don’t wear athletic socks
Shoes need to be shined
Don’t wear any accessories. (A watch is fine)
If you have a beard – make sure it is trimmed.
Try to avoid wearing a suit that you can tell is from an expensive designer, because although it would seem like it would make you look good, the employer might pass you over thinking that you do not need this job.
Make sure that your clothing is well coordinated, no frayed cuffs, holes in zippers or shoes not shined! Have a friend or spouse check out your wardrobe before taking off for your interview. You might be surprised to learn there’s a hole in your pants!
Facial hair should be well groomed, mustache trimmed, nose hair trimmed, nails cleaned and trimmed, eye glasses cleaned, teeth brushed, hair combed, posture straight. Business casual: khaki pants or dark pair of Dockers with nice sports shirt and blazer. Grooming is important. Donning proper interview attire doesn’t mean much if your overall level of grooming doesn’t create a favorable impression. For instance, wearing dreadlocks might make an important social statement on campus, but it won’t score you points in the context of a corporate interview. A short, neat haircut always looks good on a man.
Dress for women
Suits: Women have more room for creativity than men, which means they also have more room for mistakes. Limit creativity to materials, patterns and cuts. Wool wrinkles quickly, so a cotton-synthetic blend may be best, particularly in warm climates. In addition to solids and pinstripes, various plaids may be acceptable. To be safe, wear something that falls just a little below the knee. Charcoal, medium gray, steel gray, black, and navy blue are good colors, all of which look good with a white blouse.
Blouses: Long sleeves are best; although the spectrum of acceptable color choices is wider than for men, white and pale blue are still the best options.
Scarves: A pure silk scarf offers a conservative look, a good finish and ease in tying. As with men’s ties, the objective is to complement the outfit, not to match it exactly. Avoid flamboyant styles.
Shoes: Shoes should be leather; in addition to brown and black, navy and burgundy are acceptable, as is red in some circumstances. Stay away from faddish or multicolored shoes. The pump or court shoe is the safest and most conservative look.
Stockings: Select neutral skintones in most cases. Be prepared in case of runs.
Accessories: A briefcase is an ideal accessory, but do not carry a briefcase and a purse. In addition to brown and burgundy, blue and black are acceptable colors. Belts should complement or match shoes. Snakeskin, lizard and the like are valid choices. The belt should never be instantly noticeable.
Jewelry: Restrict rings to engagement or wedding rings. Subdued and professional-looking earrings and necklaces are acceptable. A single bracelet around the wrist is also acceptable.
Makeup: Natural is the key word; eye makeup should be subtle. Beware the possibility that lipstick may smudge or wear off if the interview is lengthy.
Purses should not be brought to an interview if possible. If you do carry a purse, it should be high-quality leather in a dark color. (Ideally, leather accessories, shoes, purses, belts, etc., should match.) Avoid contrasts with your clothing. The purse should be organized so that if you need something during the interview, such as a pen, you do not have to fumble and search for it. (A nice touch is to carry a good gold or silver pen, not the plastic or ”give-away” variety.) It may sound silly, but research has found that women who carry a leather attache case, even if it is empty, are generally viewed as the most professional.
Appearance is a critical part of your presentation to a prospective employer because it communicates your professionalism and judgment. You can learn a lot about appropriate appearance by researching the organization, visiting the office (if possible), and speaking with professionals in your field.
What not to wear to an interview
Experts note the following shouldn’t be worn to a job interview, even if the workplace is casual: Sandals, T-shirts, Ripped pants, Large earrings or other “big” jewelry, Nose rings, Stained or frayed ties, Sneakers of any type, Jeans (no matter how fashionable the style), Cargo pants or coveralls. In addition, neither men nor women should go to an interview with bare legs. Women should always wear panty hose, and men, socks. Dress conservatively. Don’t wear an outfit that you consider “iffy” such as brightly colored shirt or Regis Philbin type outfits, no matter what the field. Uncouth clothing is never proper business attire.
Don’t wear political or religious emblems, pins, buttons, etc. Your potential employer might not share your particular affiliations and you may be immediately eliminated from the candidate pool before you can even make the case about your suitability for the job. Do not buy polyester suits. They look cheap and scream out that they are made of polyester from a mile away! For men, make sure the pant cuff falls lightly over your shoes – no “high waters” that show off your socks! For women, make sure that the hem of the suit skirt is no more than two inches above the knee. Do not wear mini-skirts – this is not the time nor the place to show off your legs, however shapely they may be. Do not wear ties with large prints, cartoon characters, holiday motifs or anything else that is flashy or vulgar. The width of your tie should be between 2 3/4″ and 3 1/2″ and should extend to your trouser belt. The size of the knot should be small (no ascots) and never ever wear a bow tie unless you want to be thought of as pompous and obnoxious! Don’t wear excessive or flashy jewelry – it tends to give people the wrong impression. For men, don’t wear anything more than a simple watch, cuff links, and wedding band. If you have an earring/nose ring, leave it at home unless you are auditioning for a rock band. For women, simple earrings (preferably pearl), a wedding band/engagement ring, simple pin, necklace, or bracelet, and basic watch are appropriate business attire. Don’t wear hoped or dangling earrings, multiple rings or bracelets, loudly patterned scarves etc. that distract from your outfit. As in the case for men, if you do have a nose ring, this is a good time to leave it at home. Stay away from extremely high heels, ankle boots, shoes with elaborate bows, buckles etc. Pantyhose should not have any runs or snags and should be a neutral tone. Keep away from snazzy designs and textures. Appropriate business attire is neither hot nor cold. Whatever you wear should accent the fact that you’re a professional who’s ready to get to work at a new job. Let common sense be your guide, and it should be easy to avoid fashion blunders that could damage your chances of getting to the next level in the process. In this market, it is essential that you look good and your appearance is right for the job.
PROPER INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES
The interview is one of the most important components of your job search strategy. A successful interview can be instrumental in securing a position. It can be the strongest factor in the organization’s decision to hire you. However, an ineffective interview can abruptly end a successful job search. An interview is an opportunity for candidates and employers to mutually evaluate the match between the candidate’s qualifications and goals and the organization’s needs. It is important to keep in mind that interviewing involves a mutual exchange of information, rather than an inquisition or interrogation. This is your best opportunity to evaluate the organization and the position. In order for you to present yourself and your qualifications in the most effective manner, careful and thorough planning is required prior to each interview.
Preparing for the interview
Examine your previous experience. Write out the major responsibilities for each job you’ve held. Note any special accomplishments. Zero in on your important work strengths – those abilities where you are most productive. To prepare for this interview, find out what the position needs are and what the employer is looking for. After reviewing the employer and position needs, determine which of your abilities and which aspects of your experience will be most important to the employer.
Try to get directions at least a day before your interview, so you don’t get lost and arrive late. And here’s a tip: Always bring some cash to pay for parking. Never ask an employer to validate your parking stub, or reimburse you for parking. Not only is it impolite, you’ll create a negative impression, since its considered common courtesy to pay your own expenses for a local interview. Get to know the company. If possible browse their website ahead of time to find out what they do, the type of industry they are in, who their competitors and their clients may be. This information will help you in many ways, for instance, if one of their biggest clients happens to be the company your father works for, it may be a point of interest, especially if your job is in sales or client relations. Learning about the company ahead of time may also keep you from embarrassing yourself in the interview by asking a question you should already know. Collect and neatly arrange your papers and work samples in a nice briefcase or portfolio. This makes you look organized and professional. Remember to pack documents such as extra resumes and reference lists, and immigrant work-authorization papers. Bring at least one pen and pencil.
Probable questions employers ask
Opening questions – these are questions such as, “Tell me about yourself. . . ” Observe the interviewer (or even ask) to determine how formal or informal you should be. An interviewer is trying to find out about you as a person, not just as a set of qualifications. Questions like these are important in evaluating how you’re going to fit into the culture of that organization.
Credential questions – this category includes questions like “What is/was your GPA?” “How long were you at. . . ” or “How well did you do in your major classes?” The interviewer is trying to place some kind of measurement on your background.
Experience questions – these questions relate to your experience and allow an interviewer to subjectively evaluate your background. Expect questions such as: “Have you done this type of work before?” “What did you learn in that class?” or “What were your responsibilities when you worked for —-?”
Opinion questions – the interviewer is trying to analyze how you would react in certain situations. He/she could ask anything from “What are your biggest weaknesses?” to “What would you do in this kind of situation?” & “What kind of supervisor do you like to work with?”
Before you head out to a job interview, it’s a good idea to practice answering the types of interview questions employers will likely ask. Some of the questions employers are likely to ask are:
Tell me about yourself.
A.This is the dreaded, classic, open-ended interview question and likely to be among the first. It’s your chance to introduce your qualifications, good work habits, etc. Keep it mostly work and career related.
Q.Why do you want to leave your current job? (Why did you leave your last job?)
A.Be careful with this. Avoid trashing other employers and making statements like, “I need more money.” Instead, make generic statements such as, “It’s a career move.”
Q.What are your strengths?
A.Point out your positive attributes related to the job.
Q.What are your weaknesses?
A.Everybody has weaknesses, but don’t spend too much time on this one and keep it work related. Along with a minor weakness or two, try to point out a couple of weaknesses that the interviewer might see as strengths, such as sometimes being a little too meticulous about the quality of your work. (Avoid saying “I work too hard.” It’s a predictable, common answer.) For every weakness, offer a strength that compensates for it.
Q.Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
A.Answer with positive, work-oriented adjectives, such as conscientious, hard-working, honest and courteous, plus a brief description or example of why each fits you well.
Q.What do you know about our company?
A.To answer this one, research the company before you interview.
Q.Why do you want to work for us?
A. Research the company before you interview. Avoid the predictable, such as, “Because it’s a great company.” Say why you think it’s a great company.
Q.Why should I hire you?
A.Point out your positive attributes related to the job, and the good job you’ve done in the past. Include any compliments you’ve received from management.
Q.What past accomplishments gave you satisfaction?
A.Briefly describe one to three work projects that made you proud or earned you pats on the back, promotions, raises, etc. Focus more on achievement than reward.
Q.What makes you want to work hard?
A.Naturally, material rewards such as perks, salary and benefits come into play. But again, focus more on achievement and the satisfaction you derive from it.
Q.What type of work environment do you like best?
A.Tailor your answer to the job. For example, if in doing your job you’re required to lock the lab doors and work alone, then indicate that you enjoy being a team player when needed, but also enjoy working independently. If you’re required to attend regular project planning and status meetings, then indicate that you’re a strong team player and like being part of a team.
Q.Why do you want this job?
A.To help you answer this and related questions, study the job ad in advance. But a job ad alone may not be enough, so it’s okay to ask questions about the job while you’re answering. Say what attracts you to the job. Avoid the obvious and meaningless, such as, “I need a job.”
Q.How do you handle pressure and stress?
A.This is sort of a double whammy, because you’re likely already stressed from the interview and the interviewer can see if you’re handling it well or not. Everybody feels stress, but the degree varies. Saying that you whine to your shrink, kick your dog or slam down a fifth of Jack Daniels are not good answers. Exercising, relaxing with a good book, socializing with friends or turning stress into productive energy are more along the lines of the “correct” answers.
Questions to ask employers
Always prepare questions to ask. Having no questions prepared sends the message that you have no independent thought process. Some of your questions may be answered during the course of the interview, before you are offered an opportunity to ask. Do not ask questions that are clearly answered on the employer’s web site and/or literature provided by the employer to you in advance. This would simply reveal you did not prepare for the interview, and you are wasting the employer’s time by asking these questions. Never ask about salary and benefits issues until those subjects are raised by the employer.
Some sample questions to ask employers are:
How would you describe the duties of the position?
How would you describe a typical day in this position?
How much travel is normally expected?
How frequently do you relocate professional employees?
Why are you looking to fill this position? (Is it a newly created job? Did the previous employee leave? Why?)
How many people have had this position and where have they gone?
What is the average stay in this position?
Outside my department, who else will I work with?
How much evening or weekend work is expected?
How high a priority is this department within the organization?
What are the prospects for advancement beyond this level?
How does one advance in the organization?
How often are performance reviews given?
How often do the training programs offered?
About how many individuals go through your training program each year?
How does your company’s tuition reimbursement program work?
What new product lines/services have been announced recently?
What is the average age of top management?
Will you describe ______________ to me? (The personality of a ranking officer often reveals a lot about the company philosophy).
Could you tell me about public transportation to your company?
How many people are you interviewing for this position?
What are the things you like least/most about working here?
If I am extended an offer of employment, how soon after this would you like me to start?
When can I expect to hear from you?
As the interview closes, be sure to express interest in the position and briefly summarize why you are qualified. Then ask what the next step will be or when you can expect to hear from the interviewer. This inquiry demonstrates your confidence and interest and gives you important information. Finally, ask for a business card so you can send a thank you letter within 24 hours. If no card is available, make sure you learn the correct spelling of the interviewer’s first and last name.