Job Market Etiquette: 7 Things Every Successful Job Seeker Does

View of back of woman sitting in chair with four interviewers staring at her

There are many unspoken conventions and expectations that surround the job application, interview, and offer process. When you’re on the job market, how you come across and the level of professionalism that you exhibit at every step is often just as important as the substance of your background, skills, or education.

Remember, employers are not just looking for “executors” who can perform their job duties, but they’re also interviewing for potential colleagues, and evaluating how well you would fit into the organization or department. Are you someone they’re excited to be working closely with? Can they see you thriving in their company culture? Do you reflect the attitudes or values of the organization? Will you be an easy coworker and collaborator?

Making a good impression on all of these fronts ends begins with following these fundamental job market conventions:

Stay professional in your emails

From the first moment of communication you have with a potential employer (whether you’re speaking to an entry-level scheduler or the senior department head), you should follow the rules of traditional email etiquette. Regardless of how informal they may come across, you don’t want to mimic that informality. Always include a proper greeting and salutation, make sure your message is error-free before sending, don’t use emojis or other expressive signs or symbols, and maintain a professional tone throughout. Be sure to follow these guidelines whether you’re writing from your desktop or your smartphone.  

Bring a printed copy of your resume/CV

It may seem outdated since nearly everything about the job application process is done electronically, but bringing a hard copy of your resume or other job application materials is still a “best practice.” And, things happen… perhaps the WiFi is down and your interviewer can’t access your materials. Maybe they’ve misplaced your resume. Or, at the very least, offering to give them a copy of your materials -- even if they don’t end up needing it -- signals that you’re prepared and thinking ahead, which can only reflect positively on your candidacy.

Dress the part

Regardless of how informal your potential new work environment is, don’t dress like you already work there. Always opt, at minimum, for a business-casual approach to your wardrobe. Your appearance should be tidy, professional, and non-distracting. Yes, you want to “be you,” but you don’t want your appearance to detract in any way from the content of your resume or your ideas.

Brush up on your small talk

In general, you’ll want to come across as pleasant and affable and establish a comfortable rapport with your interviewer(s). Most interviews begin and end with a few moments of small talk or chit-chat. If you’re not especially comfortable in these types of social situations, you can prepare ahead of time with some “go to” topics that are appropriate for any audience, such as the weather, or conversation-starting (yet benign) questions such as “how long have you worked with the company/in the industry?” or “How do you like living in the area?”

Put your cell phone away

You’d be surprised how many candidates sit down for the job interview still clutching their smartphones -- a big no-no. Put your phone away where you can’t see it, and make sure you’ve silenced all alerts and ringers (even loud vibrates can be distracting in a quiet room, so turn those down or off as well).

Exhibit positive body language

Body language sends powerful non-verbal signals to those around you, and how you present yourself can play a huge part in the way you are perceived and even on your overall candidacy. In general, you want to maintain steady eye contact throughout the interview, refrain from fidgeting or any distracting motions, display good posture, smile and appear personable, alert and engaged, and in general appear as natural, confident and calm as possible.

Send a thank you note

Within 24 hours after your interview, send a brief thank you note (both written or email are widely acceptable now) to every person you interviewed with, making sure that each note is unique (don’t copy and paste the same email to the entire group, and certainly don’t send a group thank you email where you ‘cc everyone at once). Keep the notes brief but be specific, reference specific issues covered or a moment from the interview. Wrap it up by reiterating your interest, thanking them for their time, and providing your information again if they need to follow up.

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