When you’re applying for and interviewing for jobs, employers will assess your skills and experiences — but they’ll be looking at more than just what you can do. The way you communicate with employers and present yourself in person play a big role in hiring decisions, so knowing how to make those connections count is vital.
“The word ‘etiquette’ sounds antiquated, so the definition I use in training is ‘building relationships,’” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “When we’re thinking of etiquette, we’re not thinking of chivalrous manners — we’re thinking about how to build relationships and trust.”
Here’s how to get it right when searching for a job.
To build an effective relationship, you need to understand the company you’re applying to — its culture, what it does, what’s important to its employees. “I know it sounds like common sense, but you need to do your homework,” Gottsman says. “This is not a place you can afford to skimp.” Do your research through the company’s website and social media and contact anyone you know who works there so you can learn more about the culture and purpose of the organization. Doing so will help you make an authentic connection when you communicate with people at the company.
Sure, you probably have a mapping feature on your smartphone, but bad traffic or construction could delay you on your way to the interview. Gottsman recommends asking for directions from someone at the office before you head to your interview so you can arrive a few minutes early. You don’t want to be hanging around the parking lot for an hour, but “if you’re on time, you’re late,” she says.
Be prepared with hard copies of your resume for your interviewers, Gottsman says. She also recommends bringing a list of references with you in case they want to take the next step in the hiring process immediately. “If you’re a good fit, why make them wait?” she says.
Thanking people for their time after an interview isn’t outdated at all, Gottsman says: “Always send a thank-you note.” If possible, send one via email as soon as possible, as it creates an electronic trail that gets your name in front of their eyes again. If you want to stand out, follow up with a handwritten note reinforcing how interested you are in the position.
Of course you want to know their decision as soon as possible, but it’s better to wait for them to call you — at first. Don’t call back to find out where they are in the process the day after your interview, Gottsman says; give them some time. They will likely tell you when they expect to make a decision. “If they say Friday, don’t call back Thursday,” she says. “But you can call back Monday to check in.”
If you don’t get the job, the employer will remember your reaction. “The decision might be between you and someone else, and that first person may not work out,” Gottsman says. A gracious reaction if you’re turned down will make them feel good about contacting you for other opportunities. If you’re rude or try to pass blame, however, they’ll pass you over, she says.
When it comes to job-search etiquette, “Every detail matters,” Gottsman says. “If you want the job, you have to do the work to get it.”
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