Business Etiquette Tips
When you’re just starting out in the working world, it can be hard to navigate the complicated rules of professional etiquette. If you need help with the etiquette for interviews, scheduling meetings, businesses lunches or anything in between, follow these etiquette tips. From your first interview to your last day, these business etiquette tips will help you succeed in the workplace.
An interview is your chance to show a potential employer what you’ll bring to their company, and following professional etiquette can help you achieve that goal. The night before your interview, decide on your outfit. If you’re unsure if the company’s dress code is more casual or conservative, go for a more conservative look. During an interview, it’s better to be dressed up than dressed down. If you get the job, you can then tailor your wardrobe to what most people wear in the office.
On the day of the interview, turn your phone off before you walk into the office—even having it on vibrate could potentially be distracting. Also, remember that your interview starts right as you enter the building. Be polite to everyone you encounter on your way to the interviewer’s office, from the man standing next to you in the elevator to your interviewer’s secretary.
Mind your body language.
When the interview begins, start with a firm handshake and a smile. As the interview goes on, be careful not to interrupt the interviewer, and wait for them to finish each of their points completely before you give your answers. Also, be aware of your body posture—try to sit up straight, and look the interviewer in the eye as you give your answers. These small gestures tell the interviewer that you’re alert and invested in the interview. People form opinions on your personality and intelligence in the first 30 seconds of meeting you, so first impressions are key.
Follow up wth a thank-you note.
After the interview, always follow up with a thank you note. You can keep this note brief, but be sure to mention specific details about the job or your interview. You can also reiterate your qualifications for the job and how you will fit into the company’s culture. If you were interviewed by a panel, send a personalized thank you note to each person.
What to Do on Your First Day
You nailed the interview and landed the job, and now it’s time to begin working at your new office. On your first day, arrive about 15 minutes early—it will show your new boss that you’re eager and excited about beginning work. Throughout the day, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take plenty of notes. When you meet new co-workers, be friendly, but try not to be too open or personal just yet.
Bring your essential tools.
While your office may provide essentials like pens and notepads, it’s best to bring your own on your first day just in case. Any desk accessories or water bottle is good too, but don’t bring in a whole box of stuff before you’re able to see the size of your desk. You also don’t want to spend the first 30 minutes of your workday unpacking.
End the day on a good note.
At the end of the day, it’s best not to be the first one to leave. Keep an eye on when your co-workers pack up and follow their lead. If you were given a project, try to finish it up before you head out.
Etiquette at Business Lunches and Dinners
Location is everything.
Business lunches and dinners are often used as a way to meet with colleagues or clients. At these meals, there is some business etiquette that you’ll be expected to follow. If the restaurant will let you pick a table in advance, try to choose one that fits the occasion. If you’re having a celebratory lunch, go for a table in the central area of the restaurant, or a table that’s close to the bar. But if you’re having a serious, one-on-one meeting with a client, ask for a quiet table in the corner of the restaurant.
Mind your manners.
When you arrive, shake everyone’s hands firmly and introduce yourself. Once you sit down at the table, immediately unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. When the waiter comes over, try not to spend too long on your order—you don’t want to hold up your clients or colleagues. It’s best to order something that’s not messy, so skip the spaghetti for now. If you’re hosting, you shouldn’t usually order alcohol, even if your client is drinking.
During the meal, don’t start eating until everyone has been served. While you’re eating, be careful not to put your elbows on the table, and avoid talking with your mouth full. When you go to speak, rest your fork and knife on your plate.
When you’ve finished eating, place your fork and knife parallel to each other on your plate, with the handles in the four o’clock position and the tips in the ten o’clock position. The blade of your knife should be facing inward and away from you, and the fork’s tines should be facing up. If you don’t finish your meal, most etiquette experts say that it’s unprofessional to take food home with you.
Who pays when dining out?
After you finish eating, the trickiest part of the meal arrives: the bill. If you’re one of the guests, the host will most likely take the bill. If you’re hosting clients, you will pay the bill. If your client tries to take the bill, thank them for their generosity and insist on paying it.
Etiquette for Scheduling Meetings
Be accommodating of other’s schedules.
At some point during your professional career, you’re probably going to need to schedule a meeting. When you’re scheduling the meeting, start by offering a wide time window that includes a few different hours on a few different days. If you’re able to view the attendees’ calendars, do that first and modify your suggested time slots to times that you know work best for the group.
Create a calendar event.
Once you and your colleagues have agreed on a time, create an event in your company’s calendar service and send to all meeting attendees. Make the title of this event descriptive—for example, instead of just writing “Lunch,” write out the name of the restaurant and the people attending.
Share the agenda.
In advance of the meeting, typically at least two hours beforehand, send a meeting agenda. Even if it’s a brief bulleted list, this helps keep everyone on track and avoids unproductive conversation. If for any reason you need to cancel the meeting, try to do it at least a few days in advance, and email your colleagues to explain the situation. Avoid scheduling same day meetings unless the discussion cannot be delayed.
During a meeting, always bring a notebook and pen to either keep notes for the group or for yourself. As the organizer, you’ll be expected to be prepared by printing out any necessary documents and setting up any presentations. This can sometimes take a while, especially if you’re unsure of the conference room technology, so start setting up about 10 minutes beforehand so you’re not delaying the actual start time.
When writing and sending emails, it’s important to keep your email as brief as possible with a clear purpose and call to action. Especially when emailing executives or coworkers with a busy schedule, a lengthy email is most likely to go ignored. Type out your email and reread before sending, checking not just for grammar and misspellings, but also sentences that could be shortened or made concise.
When receiving emails, don’t let an email from a colleague, boss or client go unanswered for too long—ideally following up in the same day it was received. Of course, you can prioritize emails—a question from your boss should be answered within the hour whereas an email about planning the next company party could be answered later. How you prioritize emails depends on your role and position within the company. If you’re ever in a time crunch simply responding with a date of when the sender can expect to hear back from you is courteous and appreciated.
When you’re sending out emails to your colleagues, try to stay focused on work-related topics, and be mindful of how long your email chain is getting. If you’re emailing with a large group, make sure the emails pertain to everyone in the group. If, for example, you begin talking about a staff meeting that only two other people in the group are attending, be sure to switch to another email thread.
Work devices are for work.
Every company has their own policy about personal computer usage. If you’re unsure what your company’s policy is, ask co-workers or an HR representative. But in general, it’s best to mostly focus on work-related topics when you’re on your computer. Avoid spending too much time on social media or surfing the web. When you’re using social media at work, be careful about what you post. Be respectful and professional, and don’t bring up workplace gossip or personal information about another employee.
Socializing with clients online.
If a client asks if you can become friends on Facebook, it’s up to you to decide if you want to accept them. If you like keeping your work and personal life separate, ask the client if you can add them on LinkedIn instead of Facebook. If you do decide to accept the client on Facebook, be sure that everything you post and comment on looks professional.
Minimize personal distractions.
Keep your personal phone on silent or vibrate so you’re not disrupting coworkers nearby. Depending on your office environment, occasional texting is acceptable as long as it’s not interrupting your work or others.
If you need to take a call, it’s best to leave your desk and walk outside or in the hallway, even if the phone call only takes a few minutes, it won’t be distracting your coworkers.
Say please and thank you.
When you’re at your office, you’ll want to be mindful of the way you converse. Manners are always important in the workplace—don’t forget your “pleases” and “thank yous” when you’re asking for a colleague or supervisor’s help. When passing coworkers in the hallway, it’s always nice to smile, say hello and even ask them how their day is going (if the person looks like they’re not in a rush).
Keep your voice down.
Try to keep your tone pleasant, even if you’re frustrated or stressed, and avoid snapping or speaking too harshly to anyone in the office. Also, if you work in a cubicle or in an open office, be sure to monitor your voice level—make sure your voice is low enough that you’re not disturbing your co-workers. It’s also important to be mindful of your colleagues’ privacy.
Be courteous of others’ availability.
Even though there are no closed doors, still try to announce yourself before you begin talking to your colleague. Say something like “excuse me” or “do you have a minute?” This will allow them to say “one second” if they’re in the middle of something.
Use extra care with email.
When conversing over email, always keep your language and tone in check. A straightforward response can mistakenly read as cold or standoffish—even if you didn’t mean it that way. Closing with a “thank you” or posing a sentence as a request instead of a demand can help get your point across without hurting any feelings.
If you’re worried that an email to a colleague sounds too terse, feel free to add in an exclamation point. A study at Binghamton University found that text messages without punctuation seem less sincere, and the same principle applies to emails. It’s best not to use excessive exclamation points in emails to your boss or supervisor, but they can be very helpful when conversing with colleagues over email.
If you’d like to “virtually” introduce a new employee or contact to another connection, first ask the individual if they want to you to make that introduction. You never know if the person has already been introduced or has other connections to the person.
Connect with your co-workers.
Regardless of the size of your company, it’s always good to try and make a connection with your team. This can prove challenging depending on your personality and the office environment, so it’s always nice to have some general questions to help break the ice. Avoid politics or personal details, but also try not the steer in the other direction like talking about the weather. Great conversation starters include chatting about a new local restaurant, a favorite TV show or good places to grab lunch.
Etiquette for Leaving a Job
Give proper notice.
When you decide to leave your job, give your boss at least the standard two weeks’ notice. This gives your boss time to find and train your replacement. When you’re informing your boss of your decision, keep your tone pleasant. Highlight the positive parts of your job that you’ll miss, and express your appreciation for everything your supervisors and co-workers did for you. During your last few days, be sure to keep working hard, and wrap up all of your projects before your final day.
Don’t burn bridges.
Unfortunately, sometimes leaving a job isn’t your choice. If you get fired, try to keep your emotions in check, and do your best not to react immediately. Try not to get defensive or to assign blame to co-workers or your boss. Even if you’re upset, don’t burn any bridges that you may need in the future. Thank your employers, gather your things and walk out of the building with your head held high.
As you enter the working world, keep these etiquette tips in mind—they’ll help you in everything from acing your interview to conversing in the office. These business etiquette tips will help you become a model employee at your office.