5 ways poor manners can sink your job search

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Angry young woman sitting in a car

By Robert Half International

Manners aren’t just for weddings, fancy restaurants and older relatives. Proper etiquette is essential in every professional interaction, and it’s indispensable when looking for a job.

Even if you think you have good manners, a small slipup or two could be enough to derail your job hunt. Here are five ways poor manners could sink your job search and easy strategies for coming across with class.

1. Only being nice to ‘important’ people. You’re on your best behavior for the hiring manager, but what about everyone else? In a survey by OfficeTeam, 61 percent of executives described their assistant’s opinion as important when evaluating job candidates.

In fact, it’s crucial to be friendly and polite to everyone you encounter during the hiring process. That includes the security guard at the building’s front desk, the HR assistant who called to schedule the meeting and the restaurant staff at a lunchtime interview.

It’s smart to even consider other drivers you encounter on your way to the interview. You never know if the person you cut off in traffic might follow you into the company’s parking lot — and hold those aggressive driving habits against you.

2. Never saying thanks. You probably know to send the interviewer a thank-you note after meeting with him. But what about the other people who have helped in your job search? It’s crucial to thank references (even if they’re never called), as well as anyone who shares a contact, reviews your résumé or offers job-hunting advice.

Make a habit of sending a sincere thank-you note — email is fine — whenever someone lends a hand. If you asked a colleague out for coffee or lunch to talk jobs, picking up the tab is another way to say thanks. Of course, sometimes the best way to show gratitude is by asking a simple question: How can I return the favor?

3. Failing to be timely. It’s crucial to return all job-hunting related correspondence within 24 hours — 48 hours at the very most. This rule-of-thumb applies to emails, voice mails, social media messages and the like, whether from a potential employer or someone within your network. Dragging your feet could mean a hiring manager bypasses you for another candidate or that someone who went out on a limb to help you will be less willing to do so again.

Keep in mind, though, that, in some cases, you can be too fast. Case in point: thank-you notes. A text sent from the parking lot five minutes after the meeting concludes will come across as insincere and perfunctory. Wait at least a few hours, if not until the next day, to offer a thoughtful thank-you. In a poll of HR managers, more than 80 percent said phone and email were acceptable channels for post-interview follow-up. Only 10 percent deemed texts OK.

4. Committing a digital faux pas. Smartphones are only as smart as their owners. And hiring managers have said that a shocking number of job candidates not only leave their phones on during interviews but even answer incoming calls.

Picking up your phone and saying, “I’m in an interview” isn’t a solution. Even nonchalantly ignoring the buzz from your pocket or purse is not ideal. The best course of action is to simply leave your phone in the car.

5. Ignoring social cues. Learning to read body language gives you a big advantage on the job hunt. At networking events and interviews, be alert to signs you’re losing the other person’s interest. She might break eye contact, cross her arms, check the time or start gazing around the room.

At events, graciously offer the other person an easy out with a handshake and “It was so nice to meet you.” When you’re interviewing, kick things into high gear. Raise your energy level and focus on telling stories about your past jobs that really show off your skills.

Social cues also come into play when you ask a colleague for an introduction or reference. Following up once is fine, but if you don’t hear back, assume the other person isn’t comfortable granting the favor and let the matter drop.

By avoiding these five manners traps, you’ll make an impression so good even Miss Manners would approve. Plus, these habits will serve you well long after you’ve accepted a job offer.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.

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