Etiquette can make a difference at a job interview

Employees who know how to conduct themselves have an advantage

July 06, 2005|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Etiquette is an important concept in a civilized society: It serves as a guide to manners and behavior, usually in social situations.

But what does it have to do with a job interview?

A lot, according to Robin Ryan, a career coach based in New Castle, Wash., who has had her own counseling firm since 1991.

"Etiquette is an overlooked and lost art of how you should present yourself in a job interview," said Ryan, author of 60 Seconds and You're Hired! (Penguin, $13).

"It includes your appearance, your manners and your behavior - how you act during the interview."

The career coach says that having the proper etiquette during that all-important meeting with a potential employer clearly is an advantage.

"Jobs are hard to find today," said Ryan, a former director of counseling services at a large university. "Knowing what to do establishes you as a more valuable employee because the employer knows immediately that this is how you are going to project yourself to clients and others in the company.

"If you practice business etiquette, it means you know how to behave professionally - and that is an advantage."

The first rule of etiquette, the career coach emphasizes, is "Dress up." That doesn't mean women have to wear white gloves and hats or men tuxedos. Instead, the proper attire is what she calls "business formal."

"Dress like the manager you want to be someday or even the manager above that," Ryan said. "Your shoes should be shined, you should be clean and neat. You should be able to walk in and meet the CEO and not be embarrassed."

She especially deplores dressing "inappropriately, such as wearing T-shirts with obscenities on them, baggy pants that are falling off or micro-mini skirts. ... Skip the Spandex, nose rings, see-through tops or underwear as outerwear."

Another rule of job etiquette: Be on time for the interview.

"It's not only etiquette, it's essential," she said. "Employers know if you can't arrive on time for the interview, you won't be able to get there on time for the job."

The next area of importance, Ryan says, is social interaction. "Practice that firm handshake with eye contact and be sure to smile," she advised. "It sends a message of confidence. And be enthusiastic about the job."

A final rule about good manners is sending a thank-you note, the career adviser said.

"It should be hand-written. Employers tell me when they can't decide between two candidates and one sends a hand-written thank you note and the other an e-mail, they choose the one who wrote a letter because it shows you're willing to go the extra mile."

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