Best Job-Hunting Skill? Minding Your Manners.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d roll your eyes at your mother when she nagged you about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and not chewing with your mouth open?  Turns out she was trying to give you one of the most important tools in your search for a job:  Good manners.

Miss Manners always says that good manners are all about making other people feel comfortable around you, by showing them respect:  A firm handshake, eye contact, even chewing with your mouth closed aren’t just arbitrary ‘rules’ – they’re ways in which you can connect with others and put them at their ease.  And when other people feel comfortable, they’re more likely to respond positively to you, which can be a distinct advantage in the interview process.

Here’s how.


  • Polite, respective communications via email and telephone go a long way to making a connection with the recruiter or potential employer with whom you’re interacting
  • Good telephone and email manners make the potential employer think “This person would make a positive impression on our clients and other stakeholders”
  • Good manners can make you seem more mature – which helps you get chosen for an interview for a more senior position instead of the most junior one

During the interview:

  • A firm handshake and direct eye contact (two of my own mother’s top priorities when it came to ‘manners’) indicate you’re confident, and many studies suggest that interviewers think people who make eye contact are open, honest and appealing
  • You’ll make a more positive impression during a lunch interview if you’ve mastered effortless basic table manners (napkin on your lap, knowing the difference between the soup spoon and the teaspoon, not ordering spaghetti which can splatter all over your shirt, etc.)
  • Sitting up straight, not chewing gum, and not fidgeting during an interview will all make you look more poised, mature and ready to make a great impression

After the interview:

  • A follow-up note thanking the interviewer for his/her time and expressing interest in the position can be a great way to make yourself stand out from the competition
  • Being patient and polite with follow-up communications (i.e. not phoning the interviewer twice a day, every day, for the next two weeks) will maintain the positive impression you made

Remember, good manners aren’t about turning every social situation into an elaborate ritual dance – they’re just supposed to make everyone feel comfortable and remain undistracted by a big wad of chewing gum in the side of your mouth.

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