Business Etiquette & Professionalism



1. Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down.

2. If you have to leave the table during the meal, leave your napkin on your chair or to the right of your plate.

3. Never tuck your napkin into your collar (belt is okay).

4. Do not re-fold your used napkin when you are finished your meal.

5. Do not use your napkin to wipe your face (or nose!). Use it to gently dab at your mouth.


1. Wait for the host to order, unless he/she directs you to go first.

2. Don't order the most expensive item on the menu, and stay away from messy foods

such as spaghetti or other foods that are difficult to eat, such as shellfish.

3. Don't order alcohol unless your host does. Never order more than one drink.


1. Use utensils from the outside - in.

2. The "rest" position for your utensils is crossed on your plate, with the fork tines pointing down. This tells the waiter that you are not finished.

3. When you have finished eating, place them side by side pointing to the 11 o'clock position.

4. Never leave the spoon in the cup or soup bowl after using it. Put it on the saucer.

5. Used utensils should never touch the table.

Passing Food Items

1. Always pass the salt and pepper together, even if only one is requested.

2. If you are asked to pass something, (e.g. salt and pepper, rolls), don't use it/take some first before passing (unless the person requesting it invites you to).

3. Pass items in a counter-clockwise direction (i.e. to the right).


1. Spoon your soup away from you. Quietly sip from the side of the spoon.

2. If soup is too hot, wait for it to cool before eating. Don't blow on it.

3. Never crumble crackers into your soup. Take a bite of the cracker, then some soup.

4. Place the butter on your bread and butter plate, or on the side of your dinner plate, if there is no separate plate.

5. Break off small pieces of bread or roll and butter and eat a piece at a time.

6. When eating meat, cut and eat one piece at a time.

7. After using sugar out of a packet or butter off a paper square, put the paper under the edge of your plate, on the edge of your butter plate, or in the ashtray, if nobody is smoking.

8. Chew quietly, mouth closed, and don’t talk with your mouth full.

9. Keep your elbows off the table when eating. You may rest your arms up to the forearms on the table, although it is best to keep one hand on your lap, except when cutting up food.

10. Bring food to mouth, not mouth to food.

Other Dinner Table Tips

1. Don't push your plate to the centre of the table when finished.

2. Don't apply makeup at the table or use a toothpick to clean your teeth.

3. Don't blow your nose at the table. Quietly excuse yourself and go to the washroom.

4. Turn your head and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

5. Don't leave your personal belongings on the table.

6. Turn your cell phone off!

Employer Receptions/Cocktail Parties

Arriving and Before

1. Do your research on the company/organization before attending.

2. Read the newspaper beforehand so you can demonstrate knowledge of what is going on in the world.

3. Prepare a 30 second 'infomercial' to introduce yourself to employers.

4. Bring business cards.

5. Leave your cell phone at home, or turn it off.

6. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. Give yourself time to go to the washroom first to repair any "damage" caused by the weather.

7. Place your nametag on the right side.

8. Approach people standing alone or gradually ease into a larger group (avoid breaking into groups of two as these are usually more personal or intense discussions).

9. Don't take giveaways until after the presentation, or, in the absence of one, after having chatted with employer.


1. When introducing yourself to employers, use your prepared self-introduction. Make good eye contact, smile, and extend your right hand. Try to match the firmness of the other person's handshake.

2. Practice confident, open body language.

3. When introducing others, use the most important person's name first.

4. If you forget someone's name, be honest and ask them to repeat it.

5. Be positive.

6. Avoid sensitive small talk topics (e.g. politics, religion, controversial issues, family

questions - unless the other person begins to talk about his/her family, etc.) Stick to good topics: weather, positive world news, food, hobbies, etc.)

7. Allow 18 - 24 inches of comfort space around you when conversing with others.

Food and Drink

1. Hold drinks in left hand; keep your right hand free to shake hands with those you greet.

2. Eat something before you go. Don't overeat at the reception: it is not to be used as your meal!

3. Avoid alcohol, or limit to one drink. You need to be in top form!

4. Eat only non-messy, easy-to-eat hors d'oeuvres.

Electronic Etiquette


1. Be aware of and respect people's time. Keep messages simple, clear and brief.

2. Minimize email-specific language (e.g. BTW, ), etc.)

3. Use proper English, spelling and grammar.

4. Don't depend on highlighting techniques for emphasis as these are not always available to your recipient.

5. Always include a subject line to make it easy for recipients to determine priority of the message.

6. Be wary of automatic reply - your response may end up going to a whole listserv group rather than the one person with whom you wanted to communicate.

7. Include an appropriate amount of the original message in your reply (not too much, but enough for the recipient to recall the original idea).

8. Minimize chain letters, jokes and other personal emails (employers often monitor these!)


1. Place call during regular business hours.

2. Be prepared before you dial.

3. Be ready to leave an appropriate message (including your name, phone number) with

the receptionist or on the answering machine.

4. When leaving a message, speak slowly and give phone number twice.

5. Answer messages within 24 hours.

6. Speak slowly, clearly and concisely.

7. When answering calls, pick up by the third or fourth ring. Don't use 'call display' to screen calls. Identify yourself immediately.

8. Minimize background noise.

9. Smile.

10. End with a positive statement and acknowledgement of the caller.

11. Use 'hold' only for a few seconds.

12. Keep your personal taped message brief, professional and specific.

13. Don't use voicemail as a screening device.

14. Avoid personal calls at work.

Cell Phones

1. Limit use to important calls when you are with others.

2. Be mindful of others in public places (e.g. at a presentation). Turn your cell phone off or leave it at home.

3. If you are expecting an important call, set your phone to 'vibrate', if available, and leave the room to take the call.

4. Don't ask to use another person's cell phone.

5. Consider the privacy of the call when taking it in public.

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