In today’s business world, are traditional business customs like handshakes still relevant? Here are five business etiquette tips to help you land the job during an interview.

Thirty years ago the rules of business were very straightforward. Professionals were expected to be at work by 8:00 AM wearing a suit. Personal problems were left at home and the workplace was solely designed for one thing: work. In today’s professional landscape of ‘startup casual,’ flexible work hours, hugs instead of handshakes, and bring your dog to work, the lines have blurred as professional “standards” transform in front of us to attract professional talent of younger generations entering the workforce. So how do modern business customs impact your job search?

When it comes to an individual’s job search, this changing professional landscape leaves job seekers asking, “How is one supposed to behave to improve their chances of landing the job and fitting into a potential employer’s corporate culture? What is the golden standard?” If the company has a relaxed corporate culture, no dress code or standard work hours, do the traditional business customs apply when you walk in the door? Should you still shake everyone’s hand? Should you wear a suit or will that make you look as though you are trying too hard to get the job?

At Burchard and Associates, we coach job seekers every day on what to do and what not to do when walking into an interview. Questions regarding modern business etiquette are by far the most common. Here are our personal recommendations on how to prepare for an interview regardless of a potential employer’s corporate culture.

1. The Handshake. Shake everyone’s hand.

Did you know that your handshake is “more important than agreeableness, conscientiousness, or emotional stability [during an interview]?”1 A strong (but not too strong) handshake can say a lot about a person. It is your first impression which represents trust and respect for the other party. Therefore, do not forget to shake everyone’s hand. Your handshake should be firm and last 1 to 2 seconds. Avoid limp handshakes which can generate a perception of disinterest, disrespect, or hesitation regarding the job. You also do not want to “hulk” and crush their hand. Be aware of your own strength and practice your handshake. It says more than you think.

2. Body Language. Look people in the eye and smile.

In a day and age where most people can be seen nuzzled into their phone or computer screens, it can feel daunting to sit down and look someone in the eye for an hour or more. When you are interviewing, be aware of your body language. Sit up straight, look people in the eye, and don’t forget to smile. When you look someone in the eye, you are telling them that you are truly interested in what they are saying. A smile is even more important because it reflects a wide range of positive emotions from empathy to positivity. No one (well, almost no one) wants to work with someone who does not smile.

3. Dress Appropriately. Wear a suit and tie (unless explicitly told otherwise).

We read and hear about progressive tech companies letting their employees wear jeans, drink beer, and play ping pong in the middle of the workday. So what should you wear to an interview if the company has a ‘startup casual’ dress code? Can you swing jeans, too? No. Wear a suit (and tie for the gentlemen). Unless otherwise advised by your recruiter or the hiring manager, expect to dress professional – even if that is not the corporate culture. Although being overdressed can feel uncomfortable, it demonstrates to potential employers that you care and understand when it is appropriate to dress professionally.

Extra Tip: Personal Hygiene. Comb your hair, shave your facial hair, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to wear deodorant. Are these straightforward? Yes. Have we seen these things not happen? Yes. Clean yourself up before an interview. If you are worried about your 12 o’clock shadow, work with your recruiter or the hiring manager to try and schedule an interview first thing in the morning.

4. Phone Etiquette. Turn your phone off.

Turn your phone off, period. Not on silent, not on vibrate. Eliminate any opportunity for distraction. If you are expecting very serious news, for example your wife is expecting or you have a very sick family member, let the interviewer know about your situation beforehand. Turn your phone on vibrate and keep it in your pocket. Regardless, your phone should be out of sight.

5. Follow Up. Ask for business cards.

So you’ve concluded your interview. What are the next steps? Before you leave the office of the individual or panel you interviewed with, ask for their business cards. There is nothing worse than leaving an interview which went great, and then getting home to realize you do not have your interviewer’s contact information to thank them for their time. Make it a point to ask for their business card and then send them a card or follow-up email to thank them for their time. Sending a thank you is not pushy, nor too forward; it is a demonstration of your drive, your interest and commitment to working with that company.

Putting your best foot forward in an interview means showing up in your most professional manner. You might feel like you are kicking it old school but being polite and courteous are what people remember. Taking the time to make sure you are composed shows  you are serious about the potential job opportunity as well. Make yourself a memorable candidate and pull that business card out and send a thank you note. Remember, the art of a solid handshake is not lost in the business world.



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