Manners are nicest when you have them. Imagine this scenario:
Two students are interviewing for an internship on the same day.
The first arrives late, coffee in hand, breezes past the receptionist and heads straight to the interview room. He hands the interviewer a resume, but explains that his contact information has changed. He interviews well and seems qualified for the position.
The next interviewee arrives a few minutes early and greets the receptionist. When he’s shown into the interview room, he hands the interviewer a current resume. He interviews well and is equally qualified for the position.
The moral of the story? Etiquette can make you stand out—in a good way or a bad way.
Two students may look the same on paper, but workplace and interview etiquette are the deal-breakers when tough decisions come. Etiquette is often the little things that make a big impression.
It’s also one of the few things in the job-hunting process that is almost completely within your control. Thinking about how you handle yourself as you engage with prospective employers is essential. You must be able to project a poised, confident manner.
Nerves are to be expected, but professionalism is an absolute must. Read on for quick ways to score big points at your interview.
HOW TO DRESS
Your professional image should be polished and prepared for success from your very first impression until your very last day of work. Anything that is distracting or unprofessional should be out. In most of the industries King’s students target, it is important to dress modestly with appropriate colors and designs. If you’re ever in doubt, seek advice from the Office of Career Development.
- Suits with pants and skirts are both acceptable. Your suit should be black, dark gray, or navy and should be paired with a white dress shirt.
- Your suit should fit well, and any wrinkles should be ironed. Pants should hang about an inch above the ground when you’re standing in your shoes. Skirts should be straight or slight A-line, not billowy. Jackets should be long-sleeved, with one, two or three buttons.
- If you wear a skirt, it should be long enough that your thighs remain covered when you sit. Unless you’re interviewing with a more casual or modern company and it’s summertime, wear nylons.
- Avoid anything that is tight, short, low, sloppy or loud.
- Your shoes should be closed-toe, and heels should not exceed two inches. Select a classic pump or flat in a neutral color that compliments your suit.
- Carry your resume in a briefcase or portfolio.
- Go easy on perfume and jewelry. Heavy scents may make your interviewer sneeze. Only single ear piercings should be visible. Remove jewelry from additional piercings, including cartilage, second holes and nose.
- Hair should be tidy and out of your face, and make-up should look natural. Fingernails should be clean and trimmed, and polish should be light.
- If you are pursuing an artistic position, you may wish to call the receptionist and ask what employees wear. When in doubt, err on the conservative side.
- Your basic outfit should be a dark, tailored suit with a white dress shirt and conservatively patterned tie. If you’re buying off-the-rack at JC Penny, Macy’s, Kohls or Target, you’ll want to get that suit tailored. Employers will notice if your slacks bunch around your shoes or the vent in your jacket has not been opened.
- For suit color, a charcoal, dark gray, or deep navy suit is usually your best bet. A black belt and shoes will work with all of these options, though certain browns can work, too.
- Make sure you shine your shoes the night before your interview. This will show that you pay attention to detail and pursue excellence.
- Don’t carry your resumes and extra paperwork in a pocket or manila folder. Get a nice portfolio (bonus points if it matches your suit).
- If you tend to wear your hair on the longer, shaggier side, consider getting it trimmed a week before your interview. Additionally, you’ll want to be clean-shaven when meeting with an employer or networking contact.
Be courteous to everyone you meet. From the receptionist who greets you to the associate you meet in the hallway, you never know if you’re interviewer might go back and ask for their impressions.
THANK YOU LETTERS
It’s always best to send a thank you note to anyone who interviewed you for a position. It’s an easy task, but it shows your interest in the organization and your appreciation for the chance to speak with someone about a job. Moreover, it gives you another opportunity to reinforce your candidacy for the position before the interviewer makes a final decision.
GENERAL LETTER WRITING TIPS
- Make sure you get the appropriate title and address for your interviewer and verify the spelling of their name!
- The content of your letter should be genuine, and a great way to accomplish this is to include a reference to some part of your conversation. ALWAYS restate your interest in the position.
- Proofread your letter multiple times, and have a friend or family member double-check it, just to be safe.
- Your best bet is usually to send a handwritten letter on high-quality stationery. If you feel that your handwriting is not legible, you may always opt to send a typed letter. We suggest that you use nice letterhead rather than standard printer paper if you go this route.
- Try to send the letter on the same day, so that the interviewer receives it within two days of your meeting.
- If you have a sense that the employer might make a quick decision or if you’re talking to people in high-paced industries, it might be worth sending an e-mail thank you note.
SAMPLE THANK YOU NOTE
City, State, ZIP
City, State Zip
In your first paragraph, thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you. Let them know you are appreciative of their time and state again your interest in the job. If this was an informational interview, thank them for the knowledge that they shared regarding their field/company.
The second paragraph can reiterate the strength of your candidacy. Flesh out a point or two that you made during your interview. If the meeting was not an interview, summarize what you learned from the informational interview or share your strengths with a reference that might be helping you search for a position.
Generally, three paragraphs will be plenty. In this section, let them know what your next steps are and how they may reach you (phone number and email) if needed. If you interviewed for a position, express your interest one final time. For other types of interviews, express that you will stay in touch and include any action points you may have discussed with them.
Good manners can’t replace the value of a strong education and internship experience, but, without them, you’re unlikely to get many invitations to accept jobs.