Etiquette for the New Graduate

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute
Etiquette for the New Graduate

Q.  I know how to dress, my resume is in order and my experience is solid. But I?m nervous about the initial steps when meeting my interviewers. What do I need to know?

A. Do the next five things with everyone you meet and you are well on your way to success!
  • Look them in the eye
  • Give a firm handshake.
  • Greet them - "/How do you do?" or
    "/How do you do, Mrs. ________"
  • When saying your name, say it slowly and clearly.
  • Let your enthusiasm show.
Q. I know I?m supposed to shake hands when I meet or greet a business colleague, but I always feel awkward. Do I have to shake hands?

A. Yes, you have to shake hands. Shaking hands is a way for people to extend a welcome and take your measure. Other than your initial appearance, this can be someone?s first impression of you. Here are some pointers to help put you at ease:
  • When: Handshakes are appropriate when you?re being introduced, when you welcome people into your office, when you run into someone you know outside of work, when you say good-bye, and whenever another person offers his or her hand.
  • Grip: This is what leaves that impression: a limp grip suggests hesitance or timidity; a crushing grip suggests over-enthusiasm or aggression; a firm grip conveys confidence and authority. Make sure the shake is palm to palm and keep your hand perpendicular to the ground.
  • Gender: There was a time when it was considered polite for a man to wait for a woman to extend her hand before extending his own, but this is no longer a business custom. A handshake is usually expected regardless of one?s gender.
  • Gloves: If you live in cold country, common sense rules: leave them on if you greet someone outside.
Q. I?m always confused by this: when I?m introducing someone, who do I introduce to whom?

A. The trick is to talk to the ?more important? person first. Importance can be defined in many ways: experience, age, degree of public recognition, job level. A client or a prospect is always considered more important than the supervisor or boss. If you are talking to a client and your boss approaches you, introduce your client to the boss. You are talking to the client first because you want her business; she is the most important person to you at that moment. Now, if you were talking to your boss and the client approached you would say ?Excuse me? to your boss and then turn to the approaching client, great him or her, and then introduce him or her to your boss. In an instance when you are not sure who is ?more important,? just forge ahead.
Q. My cell phone is my home phone: I don?t have a land line. Can I leave my phone on during work hours?

A. This is an example of making sure you control your technology and that it doesn?t control you. You should not be taking personal calls. If you are expecting an important call and want to leave your phone on, consider the following:
  • Turn off your ringer if you are in a meeting, presentation or are at a client lunch. At other times, if your ringer is on, keep it very low or have it vibrate.
  • Don?t use your phone if there is any possibility that the people around you will be bothered by its use. Remember: people can?t help but hear what you are saying.
  • Never say anything confidential, personal or private if others can overhear you. You can always call back when you have privacy.
  • Speak quietly: we all tend to speak louder on the phone.
  • Keep your conversation brief.
Q. I?ve been wearing jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps for the past four years. I know that I need to kick it up a notch for a series of job interviews I have. But just how formal do they expect me to look?

A. First off, you need to research each company you?re interviewing with. Dress expectations vary from business to business. Drop by the company in advance of your interview to check out what people are wearing. If you can?t make a pre-interview visit, call and ask a human resources representative about the dress code. And then, when selecting your clothes, dress one notch up.

Some other dressing pointers for the interview:
  • Make sure your shoes are clean and your clothes are pressed and stain-free. There should be no hanging threads, tears or missing buttons.
  • Your nails and hair should be clean and groomed.
  • No flashy jewelry: you can show your individuality more once you are employed.
  • Suits: wear one unless you?re interviewing in a field where it would look out of place. If the company is very casual (jeans and t-shirts), men can wear khakis and a button-down shirt; women can wear dress pants and a blouse or a sweater set, or a simple day dress (no spaghetti straps or minis).
  • Cologne and perfume: less is more. You don?t want to be remembered as the person who left the lingering odor of eau de whatever in the interviewer?s office.
Q. I just had a great interview. I thanked them profusely and told them I looked forward to hearing from them, and that I?d check in with them in a week or so if I didn?t hear from them. Do I need to send them a thank you note?

A. Yes. Always thank an interviewer twice: once upon the completion of the interview, with a firm handshake, and then through a thank you note, typed on executive or standard 8 1/2" x 11" paper. The thank you note doesn?t have to be lengthy: three or four short paragraphs recalling strong points from the interview, answering any questions that may have arisen and providing any information you promised. End the note by thanking the interviewer and expressing your hope for a positive outcome. And, for gosh sakes, proofread the letter.
Q. I just got my first job rejection. I?ve gone over the interview in my head and I just can?t figure out why they didn?t hire me. What could I have done wrong?

A. You may not have done anything wrong: someone else may just have been the perfect fit for the job. However, to ensure your future success, consider the following tips when interviewing:
  • Be on time: Even one minute late is too late. Travel to the site of the interview the day before so you know how long it takes to get there, and then add ten or twenty extra minutes: you can always wait in a coffee shop or just stand outside so you can enter five minutes early.
  • Be prepared: Read up on the company (go to the internet or request the company?s latest annual report); know your own strengths and weaknesses; know your resume by heart; and do something no one likes to do ... practice. Ask yourself the questions you are likely to be asked and respond out loud. You?ll be surprised how different answers sound when spoken aloud.
  • Dress appropriately: Research the company, know what the dress code is, and then dress one notch up.
  • Names: Introduce yourself to the receptionist and your interviewers. Remember your interviewers? names and use them.
  • Handshakes: Make sure you give a firm handshake: no limp fish or bone-crushers.
  • Say "Thanks": At the end of the interview, stand, thank the interviewer for her time, look her in the eye and shake her hand. A short note of thanks is also a must.



About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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