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Professional Image

Whether you are interviewing for an internship or preparing to enter the professional workforce, your professional image can help lead you to success. Knowing professional interviewing, workplace, and dining etiquette, as well as how to manage your social networking profiles are all very important in today's job search process.

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Etiquette Tips

  • Introductions: Introduce a younger person to an older person, a non-official person to an official person, and in business, the junior to the senior. Always explain who people are and use full names.
  • Handshakes: Make a “V” with your thumb and forefinger. Then extend your right arm across your body and pump about two times. Make sure your grip is not too hard or too weak.
  • Name Tags: A name tag should be worn on the right side of your front shoulder area. If it is on a chord, it should be in the upper middle of your chest. Pay attention to people’s names when being introduced, and use names after introductions. Use Ms., Mr., Professor, Dr., unless asked otherwise.
  • Socializing vs. Gossiping: In a professional setting, stay away from cliques. Be nice and friendly to everyone, and volunteer to help out when you can. It’s okay to have appropriate fun, and don’t forget to communicate regularly and effectively.
  • Phone Communication: Keep a pen and paper by your phone to take notes. When talking, speak clearly and at a moderate pace, and don’t chew gum or chew food. Avoid talking on a cell phone in public, unless there is an emergency. When calling others, leave a message with your name, purpose, and contact information. Also, make sure you have an appropriate voicemail greeting. Return messages within 24 hours, if possible, and know the rules about personal calls at your organization.
  • Email Communication: Make sure you have a professional email address, and know the policy about personal email at work. Use proper grammar and punctuation, and watch sarcasm, as it is often hard to understand within text.  Also avoid emoticons in professional communication and have a signature attached to emails with your name, title, and contact information. Address people by proper titles (Ms., Mr., Dr.) unless they have requested otherwise or if they use only their first name in their signature.

Professionalism is a key component to acing an interview and landing a job.  From the moment you are invited to an interview to the time you officially accept an offer, your professional image is being evaluated. Utilizing strong communication skills, being polite and courteous, dressing to impress, and following up with a thank you letter are all important aspects of the interviewing process.

  • Courteous Communication: Make sure you are always polite and courteous when communicating via email, phone, or in-person during the interviewing process.
  • Accurate Specifics: When setting up the interview, find out the date, time, duration, location, and directions.
  • Preparation: Research the company extensively prior to the interview. Also, know yourself and your experiences, and write down questions to ask the interviewer. Take the questions with you so you are sure to remember what you would like to ask.
  • What to Bring: Take copies of your resume in a portfolio, as well as copies of your reference page, a pen and notepad, tissues in your pocket, and the phone number of the company in case of an emergency.
  • Body Language: Your body language can really show off your confidence. Always smile and make eye contact. Show your enthusiasm for the position, stand tall and sit professionally, yet comfortably. Use hand gestures naturally, and try not to fidget.
  • At the Interview: Arrive 5-10 minutes early.  When you meet someone offer a firm handshake and be polite to EVERYONE you meet. Wait to sit down until the interviewer offers you a seat. Once the interview is over thank them for their time, and find out the next steps in the process.
  • After the Interview: Follow-up within 24 hours with a personalized thank you letter. If you haven’t heard back from the interviewer by the date he/she gave you, follow-up to check on the status of the process and reiterate your interest in the position.
  • After the Offer: Thank them for the opportunity, and if you are interested, schedule a meeting to discuss the offer including salary and benefits. Write an official acceptance letter to officially accept. If you are not interested, kindly decline and write an official rejection letter.

Knowing basic dining etiquette can assist you in an interview or business meeting conducted over a meal. Follow the general tips below to make a great impression and secure a job offer or business deal.

  • Where/When to Sit: Wait for the interviewer/host to offer you a seat; ask where he/she would like you to sit if it is not indicated. Always enter your chair from the right and exit from the left.
  • Napkin Use: Once seated follow the lead of the host.  Your napkin goes on your lap and stays there while you are seated. Unfold a small napkin completely or a large napkin in half with the crease toward your body. Keep the napkin in your lap except to blot your mouth when needed and before taking a drink.  Place the napkin on the table to the left of your plate if you leave your chair during the meal. Again, following the lead of the host, and place the napkin to the right of the plate when finished.
  • Passing: The person closest to an item initiates passing, offering it to the person on his/her left first. Then items are always passed to the right. Pass items with your left hand and receive with your right hand across your body. Always pass the salt and pepper together, and pass items with handles with the handle toward the recipient.
  • Utensils: Only cut 2-3 bites at a time. Lay the knife across the top of the plate with the sharp edge toward you when not in use. The knife stays at the top with your fork at 4 o’clock with the tines up when in resting position. The knife goes to 4 o’clock with the sharp edge down with the fork below it (tines down) for finished position.
  • Other General Guidelines: Avoid alcohol during interview meals. Try to order items at a mid-price level, and avoid messy foods. Keep your elbows off the table when food is on table, and don’t talk with your mouth full. The person initiating the meal, the host, usually pays.
  • Basic International Dining Etiquette: Learn about dining customs around the world.

Dressing for success is key in making a lasting positive impression. Business attire is conservative and consists of neutral colored suits and accessories; it is suggested for interviews and business meetings.  Business casual, however, may be acceptable for day-to-day attire in some professions. You should stand out in an interview or your job because of your professionalism, not for being too casual.

Business professional tips:
  • Wear a dark colored conservative suit, generally in black, brown, navy, or gray. Solid colors or subtle patterns (e.g. pinstripes) look best.
  • Pair your suit with a complementary conservative, long-sleeved collared shirt or blouse, belt, and shoes. Make sure your socks, shoes, and belt match your suit.
  • Avoid jewelry except for possibly a watch and a wedding or fraternity ring, and make sure your hair and face are clean cut and any make-up is minimal.
Business casual tips:
  • Stay away from anything low cut, tight, or revealing.
  • Avoid jeans, t-shirts, and sweats, and use an iron when needed.
  • Find out the dress code of the organization, and think conservative; however, you can usually be more trendy than you can with business professional attire.
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