It's prom season, and the etiquette articles are sprouting like tulips. How to greet your date's parents, which fork to use at dinner, how much to tip at the coat-check stand and when to open the door for your date are just a few of the niceties I have been reading about.
Although I'm not going to a prom anytime soon, it's always good to revisit the basics of good manners. I have collected some etiquette tips of my own, useful for the challenges you face in your job search.
When leaving a job: You know the saying, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Well, focus on the second half of the sentence. There will be time later to have your say, but the day of your departure is a day to keep your own counsel. If you're going to a better job, it's impolite to brag about the details. And if you're leaving under duress, the less said the better.
When working with a career counselor: Now's the time to talk. Come to your meetings ready to hash out all your ideas.
Without your participation, the counselor can only guess at a good strategy. The two of you together will make a powerful team.
If you attend a job-support group: It might be time to be quiet again. If you're normally a big talker, plan to be a listener (so others can get a word in). But if you're normally quiet, offer some of your ideas (so others can learn from you).
Wear a name tag if it's offered -- it helps others feel at ease. And consider volunteering to set up the room or bring the treats.
When using a reference: Keep your references updated, not only on the jobs they might get a call about, but on your job search in general. And be constant in your gratitude. It's a sign of faith in your character that people are willing to stand up for you.
When corresponding with employers: It's always a nice touch to send a letter or r & eacute;sum & eacute; that fits the job at hand. It's even better to use (and spell correctly) the name of the person you are addressing.
Good manners are their own reward, but you should know that these two steps will increase your effectiveness.
Following up by telephone: This is almost a case-by-case situation. If you are responding to an ad that says "No calls please," there are probably good reasons for that request.
Nevertheless, if more than two weeks have passed, the question of etiquette has changed hands. A brief, polite inquiry at this stage is not unreasonable.
If you drop in unexpectedly: Stopping by a workplace to inquire about a hiring process is not in itself poor etiquette. It is, after all, a place of business. But good manners demand that you create as little intrusion as possible.
Explain at the reception desk that you have no appointment but that you have stopped by on the possibility that the manager might see you for a few minutes. If the manager does come out, be brief and professional. If the manager does not, leave a card or r & eacute;sum & eacute; with a brief note and thank the receptionist for assisting you.
At the interview
When meeting your interviewer(s): Stand, greet him or her by name, give your name, offer your hand, make eye contact, smile ... and that's all in the first five seconds. It gets easier after that. When in doubt, stay quiet but attentive.
When discussing past positions: Now you have to be polite to your future and past employers. To start, don't say anything negative about any people, or any difficult conditions you worked under. And don't tell company secrets.
Negotiating your salary: Whatever technique you use, remember that if you are successful, you will eventually work with the person you are negotiating with. Seek the middle ground.
If the interviewer doesn't call you after the interview: Of course you can contact him or her. But if the silence continues, you will be faced with a dilemma. Should you keep up the contact, or take the very broad hint that you are no longer being considered?
The only wrong answer is to send an etiquette article to the interviewer in question.
XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.