How your manners may gain—or lose—your next job

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So much of the attention to job search advice is focused on networking techniques, resume-writing, and interview preparation, which is understandable. But one very important aspect of successful job-seekers is often overlooked: your manners.

You should know the proper thing to do; you’ve learned many of these growing up, at home, and at school. But what you’ve forgotten may cost you a job with the financial firm you most desire.

So here are some reminders— just in case.

Don’t be late—or early—for an appointment.

There’s simply no good reason for showing up late anywhere these days. Arriving late for an interview because of traffic, weather or even an accident is avoidable with foresight and planning. Give yourself extra time for the unexpected or you risk giving an impression that being late, or loaded with excuses, is typical for you. Similarly, getting there a half hour early can burden the administrative staff, and could put a strain on the process. Target 5-10 minutes before your scheduled time—no earlier.

Your handshake counts.

First impressions are absolutely important, and a handshake is as much a part of that as meeting Mr. or Ms. Interviewer as addressing them properly. Be sure you understand how to pronounce their name; if unsure, ask! Give a reasonably firm, but not bone-crushing, handshake, and don’t hold it too long. Cultures differ, but generally in the U.S., handshakes should be strong.

Smile, because personality counts.

You don’t need an ear-to-ear grin, but a small smile reflects some lightheartedness and shows you are comfortable with the person and the process.

Listen well, and don’t interrupt.

Hear what you are being asked or told. Wait for your turn to speak. There are times in job-hunting in which assertiveness is important such as to demonstrate your passion or your interest in the job, but there is no excuse for bullying the conversation. Speaking of interruptions, make sure all of your electronic devices are OFF. A ringing, or even buzzing/vibrating device does not make you seem in demand and busy; it says you don’t take this meeting seriously enough to make it exclusive.

Demonstrate attentiveness and preparedness.

Appearing disinterested about a prospective employer is rude. Show interest in and knowledge of the company with whom your are interviewing. You want your interviewer to see how serious you are about THIS job with THIS firm.

Thank you

Just because you’ve finished the interview doesn’t mean you are home free. There is still more mannerly behavior to practice— such as the "thank you" note. Take the few meager minutes it takes and write a thank you note to each person you interview with, including the admin who greeted and tended to you while you waited. Mail (yes, mail, not email) the note within 24 hours to confirm that you understand the importance of relationships and communication in business. It is a positive reminder for those with whom you met, and it may be the most important act in your whole interview process.

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