by Scott Brown
For most people, the word “etiquette” conjures up images of privileged wealthy people and esoteric rules of social behavior that have no real meaning. When it comes to business interactions and especially those relating to job searching, etiquette is an important component in coming across as a candidate worth considering. Business etiquette is not about being a snob: in fact, it’s about *not* being a snob. It’s about being considerate of other peoples’ feelings and helping them feel comfortable with the social aspects of interacting with you on a professional basis.
MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION
Part of having good etiquette is making a good impression. If your appearance is in good taste and not wildly different from the employer’s own manner of dress and style, they will feel much more comfortable with you. In a job search setting, your “appearance” really begins before you even meet the person face-to-face. It begins with having a well-written cover letter and resume. You’d be surprised how many people have spelling and grammatical errors in their resume. Most word processing software, including Microsoft Word, includes a spelling and grammar check. The formatting of your resume should be neat and easy to read. Don’t use lots of jargon or come across as condescending to the reader.
E-MAIL AND PHONE ETIQUETTE
If the employer gets past reading your resume and is still interested in you, one of two things will happen: they’ll e-mail you or call you on the phone. This is where you need to make sure the experience this person has interacting with you by e-mail and/or phone is professional and pleasant. Don’t use an unprofessional e-mail address like “email@example.com.” You can get a free e-mail account from Hotmail.com or Yahoo.com if you need to. If you’re using an email account that has a storage limit, make sure you check your messages often enough that a recruiter’s email to you won’t bounce back because your mailbox is full. If you might not be around to answer the phone, make sure the message on your answering machine sounds professional (and make sure the answering machine works). Even better is to change the message on your voice mail daily and when you go out so the caller knows you are checking messages on a regular basis.
When corresponding with an employer by e-mail, rules of proper writing style apply. Don’t write in all capital or all lower-case letters because this is improper writing style and comes across as lazy. Do attempt to create a warm and personal connection with the person in your messages, while remaining professional at the same time. The same goes for phone calls: when answering the phone, it’s important to sound warm and receptive — even if you’re busy with something else. When you get a voice mail from someone, call them back as soon as possible: even if it’s just to let them know you’re busy but you will get back to them with an answer as soon as you can. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
When meeting with a recruiter face-to-face, dress neatly and conservatively. Make eye contact with people when they speak to you. In the past, women were to be treated differently in the workplace. This changed when etiquette expert Leticia Baldridge published her rules on business etiquette, saying that women and men should be treated the same way in the work place. For example, a man and a woman should shake hands the same way a man and a man or a woman and a woman would. When shaking hands, offer yours at 90 degree angle with the floor and don’t hold just the fingers or crush the other person’s hand with your grip. Some men may wait for a woman to extend her hand, so women interacting with a male interviewer should offer their hand first.
In the course of your interviews, you may be introduced to various people in an employer’s organization. You should always stand up when being introduced to someone. Even if you are too far away to shake hands, it is considered proper etiquette to stand for introductions.
When you first meet an interviewer or other people in an employer’s organization, they may want to start having a casual conversation with you. The goal of small talk is to find things in common and to create a bond. It’s not that important to be witty – asking questions and being a good listener is fine. You can also be prepared to share a little about yourself such as sports/athletic activities you’re interested in, pets, hobbies, as this can help the other person feel more comfortable opening up about themselves.
Watch out: politics and religion can be dangerous topics, especially if not handled diplomatically. If the interviewer brings them up, it’s fine to make comments about the subject being discussed but be careful not to make categorical statements or express a very strong point of view. Under no circumstances should sex or violence be discussed because they can be very upsetting and make you come across as someone with bad judgment. Likewise, never use profanity with a potential employer/recruiter, even if you’re having a jovial conversation as people often perceive those who use profanity as being less intelligent.
Imagine the communication qualities of a good leader: stick to your convictions as diplomatically as possible; address conflict in a situation-related rather than person-related way.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Brown is the author of the Job Search Handbook (http://www.JobSearchHandbook.com). As editor of the HireSites.com weekly newsletter on job searching, Scott has written many articles on the subject. He wrote the Job Search Handbook to provide job seekers with a complete yet easy to use guide to finding a job effectively.