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Career Tip: Business Etiquette

Business etiquette stretches far beyond which fork to use at lunch…it starts from the moment you walk in the door. Here are a few tips to consider the next time you go for an interview:

1.  I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND – Well…not really hold it, but definitely shake it.  Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on the handshake.  With that said, you would be surprised how many people don’t know how to shake hands.  I have broken it down to a 3 part science: 

      1. Web to web – When you go in for a handshake, your goal is to put the web of your hand (area between thumb and index finger) on their web.  This configuration puts you in a good position for the next step…
      2. The Grip – A nice firm grip is what you are going for…too wimpy and you may be conceived as weak and non-assertive…too hard and you get the reputation of “the bone crusher.”  
      3. The Shake – A nice, controlled, subtle, up and down movement works best…don’t get carried away…your not drawing water from a water pump.  A few shakes (3-4)…and then you are out!!! Don’t hold their hand too long…it can get awkward

If you are one of those people who don’t like to shake hands…GET OVER IT!  That is the way we greet people in official life.   Also, sweaty palms can be a bad start to the shake…so dry it off 1st.  Keep a tissue, handkerchief, or cocktail napkin in your pocket for a quick dry before the call to action. 

2. I WOULD LIKE FOR YOU TO MEET… – The introduction can also be goofed up if not done properly.  1st rule of thumb…ALWAYS stand when approached…you too ladies!  If doing the introducing, say the most important person’s name 1st (in age, rank, status, etc). For example…”President Bush, please meet Jason Umfress.  Jason, this is President Bush.”   A nice handshake (see above) followed by “very pleased to meet you, President Bush” is the textbook way to perform an intro.  If you need clarity on the name, now is the time to get it…nothing is more embarrassing than being called the wrong name all night long (example: “ Condoleezza, please meet Justin. Justin this is Condoleezza”). 

3.  AT THE TABLE – Many interviews may include a luncheon, dinner, or reception.  Even though this part of the process might feel a little more relaxed, you are still in the hot seat.  Make sure that you have your game face on.  Here are some tips:

      1. A reception is not an invitation to an all you can eat buffet.  Don’t go expecting to get full.  Have a snack before you go, take small portions, and move away from the serving table…don’t graze!  Munching on carrots and cheese balls is a great way for an employer to see how you behave in social settings. 
      2. If you sit down to a table setting with more silverware than you have ever seen, don’t panic!  Start from the outside and work your way in.  Use your common sense…a spoon with a large bowl is probably for soup…the largest fork is more than likely for your main course…the small plate at the top left with the butter knife is a great place for your bread and butter.  If you freak out…just watch everyone else. 
      3. Help the wait staff out by communicating with your silverware.  When your knife isn’t in use, it should rest at the top of your plate, blade facing in…when you are finished, put your fork and knife together and lay them diagonally across your plate…NEVER use your utensils for serving – that’s just gross!  

Etiquette is from the French word meaning “ticket.”  Brushing up on these skills will help you write your own ticket and ensure that you are concentrating less on what fork to use and more on convincing them that you are the best person for the job.  For more information, feel free to stop by the Career Center.  Best wishes to you for a successful job search.  Let us know how we can help. 

Source: Jason Umfress, 2006