by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
If you haven’t already done so, please take the Job-Hunting Etiquette Quiz first, before looking at the answers.
Good manners matter! Learn the details here.
- When greeting someone for the first time, a cupped handshake (in which your left hand covers the normal handshake) is a good way to show my sincerity and interest.
False. The proper handshake is so very important because it is one of the first impressions you make in an interview — and you do not want to do the cupped handshake, which can be seen as condescending. Use your right hand and give a firm handshake — just don’t squeeze too hard. The handshake should be brief, but long enough for both parties to say each other’s name in greeting. A firm handshake communicates confidence, interest, and respect.
Other handshake issues to avoid: limp handshakes, clammy handshakes, bone-crusher handshakes, and sweaty handshakes.
- At an interview or meeting, it is generally necessary for me to stand only when a women walks into the room (regardless of my gender).
False. Regardless of your gender, you should always stand when someone walks into the room, regardless of their gender. When someone enters the room, you should rise if you are seated, smile, extend your hand and greet the person with a firm handshake.
- At job fairs — and other professional settings — when I receive a business card from someone, I should take the time to really read the card before sticking it in my pocket or briefcase.
True. It is seen as quite rude when a person who receives a business card quickly puts the card away. You should show respect for the person who gave you the card by reviewing it for a few seconds, perhaps even using that time to remember the person’s name. Then thank the person for the business card and put it away.
- I should always turn off (or silence) my cell phone and beeper before heading into any job interview or business meeting.
True. If something is happening in your life that is so important that you need to be available 24/7, perhaps the best solution is to postpone the interview. At a minimum, you should turn all your electronic equipment’s sound off, utilizing the vibration mode if you have it. But most etiquette experts actually suggest turning off all beepers and phones before any business meeting.
- In dining situations, my drinks are on my right and my bread plate is on my left.
True. You will always find your drinks — water glass, wine glass, and other glasses — to your right and your bread (and perhaps salad) to your left.
- When on an on-site interview, if I get a parking ticket while at the interview, I can add the cost of the ticket to the expense reimbursement form I submit to the company.
False. Never pad your expenses and never make a company pay for your mistake.
- After a job interview, regardless of whether I am still interested in the job or not, I should always follow-up with a thank you note to all those who interview me.
True. One of the smallest and easiest things you can do is write a simple thank-you note after every interview. You might be surprised at how big an impact a gesture this small can make, but when the majority of job-seekers do not send thank-you notes, it makes you stand out even more.
And don’t burn any bridges by not bothering to send thank-you notes to interviewers where you’ve already decided the job is not right for you. You never know when or where your paths will cross again.
For more information, read our article, FAQs About Thank You Letters.
- A few days after a job interview, I begin calling the employer every day to see when a hiring decision will be made.
False. First, one of the key pieces of information you want to leave the interview with is a timetable for when the employer expects to make a hiring decision. Second, while you should definitely follow up with the employer, you should never cross the line from interested job-seeker to annoying nuisance.
For more information, read our article, The Art of the Follow-Up After Job Interviews.
- When introducing myself at job fairs or other business settings, I should avoid saying anything except my name until the other person responds in kind.
False. Why just state your name when you have the perfect opportunity to give a short pitch about yourself that not only will help people remember who you are, but perhaps also be a prelude to a lengthier conversation. Those 20 seconds or so, called the sound bite, gives you a chance to express your unique selling proposition — the one thing that makes you different from everyone else.
You can read much more about how to use the sound bite and other techniques in Katharine Hansen’s excellent book on networking, A Foot in the Door.
- When I know a company I am interviewing with is having a casual day on the day I am interviewing, it is best to dress down for the interview.
False. Always dress for the interview. While you want to appear to fit in with the corporate culture of an organization, casual days are not the norm. So make sure you discover what the business attire is on normal days, and wear attire at that level of formality to the interview.
For more information, read our article, When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success.
- During an on-site interview, it’s okay to order a cocktail before the meal or wine with my meal when everyone else is drinking.
False. Don’t ever display any bad habits while on an interview. Avoid all alcoholic beverages while interviewing. And most experts say you should avoid smoking as well.
- I have a great sense of humor, so it’s perfectly fine to have a humorous greeting on my voicemail (or answering machine) when job-hunting.
False. While job-hunting, you want to have a professional-sounding message. Start your message with “Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of…” Don’t make jokes; don’t have screaming or shouting; don’t have background music; and don’t have cute greetings from your kids.
- When at meetings at which people are wearing name tags, the best place to put your name tag is on your right chest/shoulder area.
True. You should place your name tag on your right shoulder is because during the handshake (using your right hand), the other person’s eyes naturally follow your right arm up to your head to make eye contact, allowing time to slip another look at your name on your name tag.
- When I place telephone calls to potential employers, I use a clear and confident voice and always first identify who I am and why I am calling.
True. Phone manners are extremely important — and often overlooked. These same rules apply to Skype and other Web-based job interviews.
Prepare ahead of time and have some notes about key comments you wish to make. By clearly identifying yourself at the beginning of the conversation you also allow the other party to be prepared.
For more information, read our article, Phone Interview Etiquette Can Propel You to the Next Step in the Hiring Process.
- At job and career fairs it’s okay for me to walk up to a group of people engaged in conversation and interrupt by introducing myself.
False. It’s best not to interrupt an employer representative when s/he is talking with one or more prospective candidates. Wait your turn. If the conversation goes on for too long, either attempt to make eye contact with the representative to show you are interested – or move on to the next booth and make a note to return later in the fair.
At all other business functions, however, it is certainly acceptable to politely interrupt and join a group of people engaged in informal conversation. Business meetings are about networking and making contacts, so feel free to walk up to the group and say, “Excuse me, I would like to introduce myself.”
- When talking on the phone with a potential employer or other business contact, it’s okay for me to put them on hold while I answer another phone call.
False. Call-waiting is a curse on business etiquette. It’s better to always let the other phone call roll onto your voicemail than to interrupt your current conversation. Not only is the practice rude, but in doing so, you stop any momentum you had leading up to the interruption — which you probably won’t be able to get back.
- I always avoid asking questions at an interview because it is rude to interrupt the interviewer by asking questions.
False. Yes, it is rude to interrupt someone when s/he is speaking, but a higher order rule takes precedence here. Job candidates who do not ask questions during an interview are often perceived as uninterested or lazy, so take the initiative and ask at least a few questions. Does this rule allow you to interrupt the employer every time s/he starts speaking? Of course not; use your judgment and interrupt only when absolutely necessary.
For more information, take advantage of our Job Interviewing Tutorial.
- During a job interview, it’s okay to check my phone for messages or surf the Web if the hiring manager has to take an important phone call or step out briefly.
False. While you may believe your cell phone is your lifeline to the rest of the world, you must remain focused on the task at hand — proving you are the BEST candidate for the position.
In fact, the hiring manager may actually be pretending so to test what you’ll do because most productivity studies show how much time is lost by workers checking their email and surfing the Web.
- The rules of etiquette aren’t as important in businesses that have a “laid back” corporate culture.
False. Just because an office has a “laid back” atmosphere, does not mean that common courtesy and manners are thrown out the window. It’s always better to behave at a higher etiquette level than a lower one, especially when interviewing for a new job.
- No matter what type or level of job I am applying for, I always go out of my way to greet the receptionists, secretaries, and assistants with sincerity.
True. There are two issues here. First, sincerity is always the strongest form of communication — and people respond well to it. Second, while often some of the lowest paid employees of an organization, the receptionists and secretaries play key roles in the organization and can offer assistance in numerous ways, so it’s best to treat them with the respect they deserve. Also, they often report back to their bosses about how you behaved and treated them.
Check your answers by going to our Job-Hunting Etiquette Quiz Answers page.
Whatever your score, the real purpose of this quiz has already been accomplished — getting you better prepared for job-hunting. Remember to take advantage of all the career resources available at Quintessential Careers.
Number of questions you answered correctly:
- 19-20: You’re in great shape and should do well in your job search.
- 17-18: You’re in good shape, though you need to do some polishing of your etiquette.
- 15-16: You’re in need of doing some real work to get a better understanding of business etiquette.
- Under 15: You’re in need of spending a lot of time learning the details of business etiquette.
Need to improve your score? You should consider using these business protocol and job-hunting etiquette resources to learn more about proper job-search etiquette. Go to: Quintessential Careers: Job-Hunting Etiquette Resources.
Enhance your career! Take advantage of all of our expert free career development advice, tools, and more in our Career Resources Toolkit for Job-Seekers.