"With the current job market, etiquette has become really prominent again," says business etiquette expert Elizabeth Craig. "Even short job ads will mention telephone etiquette or ability to work with all types of individuals." A sign of renewed interest: When Craig was asked to speak at St. Thomas University in November, the 120 students were so interested in the topic that they spent an entire hour asking questions.
Craig says the most common question from her clients and audience members, from college students to business executives, is "How is my handshake?" Craig notes that you can maximize the effect of a well-practiced handshake by remembering to put your nametag on your right side. "The person you're greeting can move effortlessly from shaking hands to reading your nametag to looking into your eyes," Craig says.
Focus Not Fluster
Being on time - which Craig defines as 5 to 10 minutes early - is imperative. If you get tied up in traffic, she advises, call and say, "I should be only 15 minutes away ... I'll keep you posted." If you have called ahead, Craig says, don't "launch into a whole explanation" when you finally do arrive. "You want the person you're meeting to remember a first impression of focus and confidence," she says
Interestingly, Craig says newcomers to the job market are concerned with etiquette. On the other hand, Baby Boomers "sometimes want to brush it off," she says.
In fact, most etiquette guidelines haven't changed over the past few decades. One exception, Craig says: Etiquette is now gender-free. The first person to a door, male or female, opens it for the other, for example.
Craig says sometimes the most appropriate answer to a question on etiquette is, "It depends." More important than dos and don'ts, notes Craig, "etiquette is about making yourself and others comfortable."
As one of the St. Thomas students told her, "That was the biggest takeaway piece I learned."
Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.