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Etiquette 101: Tips for success in job interviews and beyond


LAURA LATZKO • College Times

Having good manners, or etiquette, in social situations extends to the workplace, especially a job interview or first job after graduation.

Etiquette ties into the first impression you make with an employer and your ability to navigate a workplace.

SueAnn Brown, a local etiquette consultant and founder of the It’s All About Etiquette, says although education and training are important, people skills can be just as essential to getting and keeping a job.

“A lot of employers now are seeking people with not only the technical skills and the knowledge to perform the job, but they are equally, if not more so interested, in hiring people who are team players and rapport builders, with social graces and interpersonal skills,” Brown says.

At a first job interview or first day of work, think about etiquette when making conversation, choosing clothing, greeting another person, eating or drinking around others and using cellphones and other devices.

First impression

Brown says when you first meet someone, you have 7 seconds to make a first impression. To do this, you need to have a firm handshake, make eye contact and show confidence. Sitting only after being asked is also part of this. You only have one time to make a first impression, so it is important to present yourself as professional from the first moments that you meet someone.

“Once somebody has made their opinion of you, just by the way that you shake your hand, say hello and eye contact, that can make or break a relationship,” Brown says.

Small talk

In social situations, small talk can sometimes seem like filler, but it is part of establishing a relationship with someone, especially in a business setting. Brown says when making small talk, you want to avoid certain hot-button topics, such as politics and religion. You also don’t want to make the conversation all about yourself and should try to steer clear of questions with definitive “yes” or “no” answers. Brown says you will also want to avoid words such as “yeah,” “no problem” or “no worries.”

Try to make the conversation about the other person, discussing topics you both have in common, such as hobbies. Brown says a good question to start with is: “How is your day going?” When asking opening questions, it is important to address the other person by name.


During an interview and when you are first starting a job, what you wear is part of the first impression that you make. Brown says you want to dress a step up from what you would expect to wear at a job. Doing research on the company can help you to get more of a sense of how to dress for an interview. You especially want to avoid wearing jeans, sneakers, T-shirts and other more casual items during a job interview.

Style of dress in a workplace is often dictated by the company’s dress code. Most have either business formal or business casual dress codes. Brown says business formal usually means a dress shirt and slacks or a more formal dress, and business casual can be a more relaxed outfit such as kakis and a polo shirt. In any setting, it is important to be well-groomed and neat, which includes having pressed clothes and polished shoes.


To prepare for a job interview or a first job at a position, make sure you have everything you need, such as extra copies of your resume and supplemental paperwork. Brown says during an interview, you should bring paperwork in a professional-looking binder or folder and carry a notepad and pen to take notes. Make sure to do research on the company beforehand so that you sound more knowledgeable when answering or asking questions during an interview.

“If you have some of the answers, and you’ve done your homework before you go to the interview, and you know something about their sales and something about their products, it’s going to put you upfront,” Brown says.


It may seem like a no-brainer, but during a job interview, you want to stay off your cellphone and other devices. Texting or talking on the phone looks unprofessional. This extends into the workplace as well. Many jobs have policies about not texting or making personal calls at your desk. While in a work setting, it is better to go somewhere private to make a call to friends or family members, especially when talking about personal topics.

Your social media accounts can also play into how others perceive you. Avoid putting up pictures or posts that could be perceived negatively by a potential or current employer. Many workplaces have policies against using social media while at work, so it is best to try to reserve social media to personal time.

Food and drink

During interviews, you should avoid taking food and drinks, even coffee cups, with you. In a workplace setting, having a drink at your desk is often acceptable, but businesses have different rules when it comes to whether you can eat at your desk.


How you end a conversation can be just as important as how you start it. Brown says when leaving, you want to thank the person for his/her time and make sure to tell the person that it was nice speaking with him/her. Don’t just get up and leave without saying a formal goodbye, especially during an interview. Make sure to take the person’s business card, so you can follow up. Brown says you can make an impression after an interview by sending a thank-you note or an email.

“That helps you to stand out of the 500 people that are going for the same job,” Brown says. CT


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