The Three E's

Etiquette, Ethics and Empathy in the Workplace (and in Life)


Jeanne Nelson

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Entries in Table Manners (8)


Rookie Errors: The Job Search

Rookie Error: a mistake made due to inexperience



Recently House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called out President Trump for committing "a rookie’s error” in his attempt to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act on the seventh anniversary of its being signed into law. And former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard said of her campaign tactics several years ago, ""I put my hand up for that 100 per cent. That's my fault, you know. Sort of a dumb, dumb error - rookie error maybe."

It's front page news when a high official commits a rookie error because it's not expected of the very powerful. Yet rookie errors are committed everyday, and when made by those conducting a job search they can result in the loss of a prized position or career advancement. And it's a fact that winning candidates are frequently not the most qualified, but simply the ones that did not commit errors.

Some errors might be forgiven, such as forgetting to bring extra copies of your resume to a panel interview or turn off your personal device resulting in your mom's voice calling from your coat pocket to "pick up, pick up, it's your mom!" in the middle of your answering a question about how you handle stress on the job. Others, such as actually taking a call on your device or throwing a hissy at your interviewer because you feel that you've been treated unfairly or disrespectly can send your bridges up in flames.

But there are less dramatic errors that can also negatively impact a candidate's chances, and those who don't prepare themselves properly for a job search are doomed to make unforced errors. As Hamlet observed, "there's the rub." Thus, as a public service, following are an additional dirty dozen examples of rookie errors to avoid:

  1. Not having a strategic plan is akin to starting a college tour, buying a house or starting any major project without a plan, instructions, research or tracking process. Here is a blueprint to avoid this out-of-the-gate rookie error.
  2. Presenting a resume that is incomplete or outdated in content, style or format is like running an old-fashioned, outdated print ad or TV spot to sell a new product or service. Go here and here to fix that. And don't forget that all-important cover letter; you may use your prototype to customize as well as use it as a generic cover letter when appropriate (more on the latter in a future entry).
  3. Ditching, or ghosting an interview because you are no longer interested in the position is a potential bridge burner. You might want to take the interview for practice and to learn something, but if not simply call and politely and professionally explain that you are withdrawing your application, give a reason and thank them kindly for considering you. If you call, follow up with a brief email so you have a record that you did the thing properly. And it wouldn't hurt to follow up with a handwritten note as an extra nicety. You never know; the person you are canceling on might wind up interviewing candidates for another company or possibly being hired by your new company as your boss. Ah, yes, those things happen!
  4. Not having a positioning statement prepared to introduce yourself, both orally and in writing, that will connect the dots with your resume profile and cover letter is like leaving your house without being fully dressed. An exit statement (from your last job) is also crucial. Here's a guide to help you with these items. 
  5. Failure to nurture your network and networking social skills, and maintain your references leaves out essential pieces of your job search. Check out the links for some guidelines. 
  6. Being unaware of your Internet presence can leave you vulnerable and exposed when prospective employers conduct a search to find out more about you. This can be another deal breaker if you forgot to remove that photo of yourself dancing with a lampshade on your head. Right this way for help with your online persona.
  7. Not telling your story is a major missed opportunity. Many interview questions can be answered by referencing an actual experience. You can find out how to tell your story here.
  8. Preparing inadequately for your interview(s) by not addressing every last detail before you step into the spotlight is like stepping on the stage to deliver your breakthrough performance without knowing your lines, cues or spikes and not having your props organized and handy. Here are some tips to correct that error. 
  9. Behaving badly anytime, anywhere. Rudeness can take many forms, including poor cell phone manners, interrupting, failing to rise when being introduced, shaking hands improperly and insulting or offending someone. Good manners apply in all situations and extend to all with whom you come into contact at job fairs, networking events, interviews and so on.  
  10. Failing the "attitude vs. aptitude" challenge can expose your lack of savvy on the qualities for which employers are seeking. The idea is that a cultural fit for a company or department is more important in the long run than an individual's particular education or skills for a position, and that it is easier to train an individual to perform a particular job than to change a person's attitude or social wiring. Thus, employers these days are inclined to hire for soft skills over hard skills.
  11. Forgetting your table manners can kill your changes even as you're just about to cross the finish line. In the case of highly competitive companies and positions, employers often take their finalists to lunch to observe their table manners and weed out the clueless. After all, if an employer is going to trust you with clients and to represent the company professionally, it is essential that your dining etiquette measures up. For help with this, check out this series
  12. Failing to convey thanks by not sending a formal thank-you email and/or letter is so basic that not doing so speaks volumes about a candidate's professionalism. It goes all the way back to one's childhood and learning how to say "please" and "thank-you." For many employers, not receiving a thank-you from a candidate following an interview is a drop-dead deal breaker. The thinking is that if someone lacks this basic social grace, other more sophisticated qualities that are crucial to conducting business and working well with others will also be lacking. Please go here to learn how to avoid this ultimate job search rookie error.   

There are many more rookie errors made in the course of a job search. I can envision a reality show devoted to interview bloopers, can't you? Just don't turn your job search and hard-earned interviews into fodder for one! Oh, wait...

Eliminating the above errors will help you get on the right path and avoid slipping on any of those pesky rookie banana peels!

Until next time,



Here Comes The New Year - Are You Ready?


Let our New Year's resolution be this:
we will be there for one another
as fellow members of humanity,
in the finest sense of the word.
~ Goran Persson


With the beginning of each New Year, many if not most of us start ticking off those areas that we wish to improve in the coming year, sitting down to compose the time-honored -- or infamous, depending on how you look at it -- New Year's Resolutions.

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Job Search Series - Nailing the Interview - Part 10

The Luncheon Interview


 “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” 
~Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's quotation is a metaphor for the choices he made. Its meaning for you is although you've made it this far, all can be forfeited if you fail the final test that many employers require: a demonstration of your table manners. Many positions require attendance at meetings and events that involve dining; exhibiting top-notch table manners proves that you can be trusted to represent the company well. In a close race, the smallest details can reveal the victor.

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Job Search Series - Nailing the Interview - Part 1

Types of Interviews

“Besides getting several paper cuts in the same day or receiving the news that someone in your family has betrayed you to your enemies, one of the most unpleasant experiences in life is a job interview.” ~Lemony Snicket

It is my hope that Mr. Snicket will read the next few blog posts along with you so that he, too, might gain some snippets of advice that will help smooth the way to the job interview process. 

Let's start by taking a look at the various types of interviews you can expect to come across: 

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Job Search Series - How To Work a Room (Full of Strangers) Part 2

 Balancing Mingling with Food & Drink

 "Sometimes, idealistic people are put off the whole business of
networking as something tainted by flattery and
the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity
is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world
you have to be known to people" ~ Sonia Sotomayor

A networking event should be approached in the same manner that you would a job interview. Prepare, dress and behave as though you will meet your future boss, because that could very well happen.

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A New Year - A New Start

New Year’s Resolution: Perfect Your Dining Etiquette

To start out the New Year, in a series of posts I’ll be addressing a subject that is essential to the success of every professional – dining etiquette.  In fact, this is such an important topic and of great interest to students and young professionals that in 2013 I will be concentrating on this topic, as well as networking techniques, in my PROWESS Workshops   

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The Holiday Office Party

How To Enjoy Yourself While Keeping Your Career Intact

The holiday season is here again, and with it the usual round of festivities, including the notorious annual office party, known in many modern savvy circles as “the annual business holiday party.”  Companies sponsor this annual event to demonstrate appreciation to their employees; but underneath the good intentions lurk all sorts of minefields and pitfalls for the unwary employee. 

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Prom Protocol - Part Two

Planning For a Night to Remember with Class and Style

The GIRLS’ Guide

When shaping your image – or brand – everything you do, say, write and wear will affect how you appear to people and how they feel about you.  Prom is a major event in your life, and should be seen as an opportunity to make your debut as an adult rather than as your swan song as a wild and crazy kid.   For example, will you focus on the trendy, or will you zero in on style and class?  If the latter, read on!

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