DSC Resources

Job Hunting Etiquette

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Etiquette is about presenting yourself with the kind of polish that shows you can be taken seriously. Etiquette is also about being comfortable around people (and making them comfortable around you!). The most important thing to remember is to be courteous and thoughtful to the people around you. The old clique still holds true “You do not get a second chance to make a first impression” and in today’s job market this is more than just what you look like or what you say. You should make sure you have thought through the whole package – emails, phone, dress and so forth.
Here are some things to consider;

  • Arrive early, or be prepared for your phone interview early, there is nothing worse than at the last minute finding out the phone number you have is not working, or missing a digit and then being late for the interview because you are struggling to get the right information.
  • See more tips by reading "Tips for a Successful Interview" or “How to Ensure a Successful Phone Interview.”


  • Keep track of where and whom you have been submitted to, not just through recruiters, but on your own. Not only can it put you in a situation where you will miss out on an opportunity because of being double submitted, but it also tells people you mean business and are taking your career, job hunt and future seriously.
  • The proper handshake is very important because it is one of the first impressions you make in an interview. 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, and sweaty handshakes.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • The number you use on your contact information should always be used in a professional way, since you never know whether the person ringing is a hiring manager or HR representative, rather than just a friend.
  • Do not answer the phone if you are in the wrong environment, people can leave a message and then you can call back when you are in a suitable environment and mindset. Answering the phone with screaming kids, or construction noise not only means you cannot hear them well, but you are also not focusing at your best.
  • Make sure your voicemail is working, that it is not full and your message is professional. Don’t use humor, music, or cute greetings from your kids. “hey dude, I’m out drinking, I’ll call you when I can” is not the best first impression, nor is your 3 year old answering the phone. Keep younger children off the phone until they are old enough to answer the phone politely and take a message appropriately.
  • If you have call waiting, ignore the beep while you’re on the phone with a contact or prospective employer. The second caller can always call back later or leave a message, give your first caller your full attention.
  • Turn off cell phones while in business lunches, interviews or job fairs- or at least switch it to a silent mode.
  • Return calls from a land-line in a quiet room (rather than a cell phone, which might not sound as clear) if at all possible.
  • Treat a phone interview with the same formality as you would an in-person interview. Be prepared.
  • Make sure there are no distractions or interruptions. Even though the other person can’t see what’s going on, they will know if they don’t have your full attention while you skim read an email or surf the web, or text a friend while talking with them.


  • Check your email address, what is cute and fun to your friends can set that first impression before you realize. If you are not sure there are plenty of sites that you can get a free email address for the time of your job hunt and go with something very generic, like your name.
  • It is recommended to send a quick summary in the email and not just attach your resume. This adds a little personality and chance to grab someone’s attention to take the next step and open your resume. If you are really interested in the position tailoring your summary and skills to what they are looking for will put you a step ahead of the others.
  • Make sure your have clear contact details both in your email and your resume. Most people do not have the time to go hunting how to reach you. Include a clear Name, telephone number and email address, so people can have a choice of how to reach you. Yes, some of this is in the To and From sections, remember that you are communicating with a person.
  • Do not type in all CAPS. Emails are still a written medium, so follow standard writing guidelines, such as checking spelling, as a professional courtesy.
  • Learn to use your e-mail software well- be sure you can competently attach a document, or open an attachment, or access a web page from a URL.
  • If you receive a job lead by e-mail, make sure you follow the instructions exactly for responding to it. Many times these go to an automated system, so be sure you format your responses correctly.
  • Answer all e-mails promptly. Recruiters and companies using automated means to find candidates often judge a candidate’s responsiveness as a qualifying factor for a job.
  • Fill out online forms in the format the company asks for.
  • Ensure that you have anti-virus software installed and working properly. Sending an infected e-mail or document to a prospective employer is not a great way to make a good impression.


  • Being wrinkled, unshaven, smelly or unkempt communicates (intentionally or not) that you do not care enough about the situation, the people or the company to present yourself respectably.
  • If in doubt, always err on the side of conservative. It is better to dress to impress, than to fit in. You want to be taken seriously and stand out from the crowd, you can always dress with the crowd once you have the job.


  • Remember that eating is your secondary objective. Concentrate more on the conversation than the food – making a good impression if your first priority.
  • The fork goes on the left, spoon and knife on the right.
  • Utensils, once used, should never again touch the table. Rest them on a saucer or plate.
  • Food items (bread) is on the left, and drinks (water) are on the right.
  • Banquet table – you may start eating when two people to your left and right are served.
  • If you have not been served, but most of your table has, encourage others to start.
  • Reach only for items in front of you, ask for other items to be passed.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol, unless EVERYONE else at the table is doing so. Even then, practice extreme moderation.


  • It’s okay to ask for help from your family, friends, former co-workers, etc. Even if they’re not in your field, they may know of an opportunity.
  • Always be appreciative of any tips you receive, whether or not they pan out.
  • Be sure to return the favor and if you run across leads that others in your “network” may be interested in, be sure to pass them on.
  • Keep in contact with people you meet, and be as friendly and helpful as you can.
  • Be positive about yourself and your job search with the people you meet. No whining about the miseries of being between jobs

Job Fairs

  • Dress as if for an interview, carry a few résumés in a briefcase, but don’t give them out unless asked. This is a more appropriate place for informal conversation and a good place to use your business cards.
  • Have a 20-second “sound bite” that explains the basics of what your qualifications are and the type of position you’re looking for. Practice this until it rolls off your tongue. Use this “sound bite,” or a version of it, when you’re introduced or when you introduce yourself.
  • Don’t launch into 10-minute monologues about your history or accomplishments. Remember that the purpose of a job fair is just to generate leads. The person you’re speaking with is probably not the final hiring decision point.
  • When someone hands you a business card, don’t just shove it into your pocket. Take some interest in it. Memorize the person’s name, ask them a question about their company or position, and then put it away carefully. Treating a business card with respect communicates respect and appreciation of the person who gave it to you.
  • Don’t interrupt employer representatives who are conversing with others. Make a note of the booth and come back later.
  • When approaching a group of people conversing, make eye contact with the person currently speaking, and wait for them to finish before coming up and introducing yourself.

Following Up

  • Send a thank-you note or card immediately following an interview. (Telephone or in person.) Your ulterior motive is for the thank-you note to get to them while their impressions from the interview are still fresh. Also send thank you notes for job leads. Let him or her know that you’re still interested in the position, if you are. If you discover during the interview that the job is not a good fit for you, thank the interviewer for his time. Express interest in other positions at that company, if appropriate. Thank you notes should always be done the traditional way- as a card or letter that arrives by mail. An e-mail thank-you is usually fine for a job lead or other kinds of help.
  • Don’t call (or e-mail) more than twice a week, unless they ask you to “keep checking back.” There is a fine line between persistence (which is good) and annoyance (which is bad.) Always be polite with whoever answers the phone.