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Beyond The Resume: Job Search and Job Application Etiquette

Curious about how to prove to an employer that you’re the respectful employee they’re looking for? Here, we’ll guide you through the proper etiquette for every step of the job application process.

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Colourful Image of PlanetsIntroduction

Want to get a hot job offer? You’ve got to mind your manners. 

If you’re impolite and informal during the application process, you could make a bad impression on a potential employer. Bad manners could take you out of the running for the job, regardless of your level of experience or how many skills you possess. 

Adhering to proper etiquette practices, however, can help separate you from other applicants. It’s a simple yet effective way to demonstrate your sense of respect and diligence to a potential employer. 

Curious about how to prove to an employer that you’re the respectful employee they’re looking for? Here, we’ll guide you through the proper etiquette for every step of the job application process.

Colourful Image of Planets What is Job Application
Etiquette and Why Does it Matter?

First things first: let’s get straight on what we mean by “etiquette” when it comes to the job application process. 

What is Job Application Etiquette and Why Does it Matter?

In the dictionary, etiquette is defined as “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.” In a job-seeking context, this doesn’t just mean dressing the part. It refers to basic rules of courtesy, and paying attention to details that show respect during the process.  

Why does it matter? Because good manners and proper etiquette allow you to demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re a mature and respectful candidate and that you’re ready to be a responsible employee!

Proper Etiquette for Every Step of the Job Application Process

While every job will require a slightly different application process, the typical trajectory goes like so:

  • Crafting and tailoring your resume.
    Before you apply for a job, you need to create a resume that reflects your experience and strengths. It’s important to properly format your resume, and to keep your wording professional.
  • Writing the perfect cover letter.
    A cover letter is a letter where you introduce yourself and your resume to a potential employer. It gives you a chance to demonstrate your sparkling manners and show your interest in the position.
  • Submitting your documents.
    This is the part of the process where you actually submit the documents to the potential employer. Be sure to adhere to any guidelines they’ve given!
  • Acing the job interview.
    If the potential employer thinks you’re a good fit, they’ll usually conduct a live interview (via phone, Skype, or in person) to get to know you better. Proper attire and conduct are key.
  • Following up.
    After the interview process, the potential employer will typically evaluate applicants and make their final decision. By following up with a thank you note following the interview, you can keep yourself fresh in the minds of hiring professionals!
  • Accepting the job offer.
    If all goes well following the interview, hopeful a job offer from the employer will follow! Whether you choose to accept, decline, and/or negotiate, this step will require clear communication with the organization in question.

Now that you’ve got a good understanding of the process, let’s talk about proper etiquette for each step. 

Colourful Image of Planets Crafting and Tailoring Your Resume

The perfect resume can help you get you in the door toward the job of your dreams. For specific resume-writing tips, you can refer to posts like this and this, but here are some key etiquette points:

  ✓  Do’s


Mention keywords from the job listing in your resume.


Tailor your resume so that the job responsibilities in the past reflect strengths that will directly translate to the job being offered.
What to Do To Show Creativity on Your Resume
  X  Don’ts


Don’t get too complicated with imagery or hard-to-read typestyles.


Don’t include salary requirements on your resume.


Don’t include references on your resume. They should be listed in a separate document.
Dont's of Crafting and Tailoring Your Resume

Colourful Image of Planets Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

A cover letter is often considered an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. Remember: it will probably be viewed before your resume, so it’s important to make a good impression. Here are some tips for how to keep it professional: 

  • Address it to the right person.
    If there is a specific contact listed in the job posting, address it to that person. If there is not a specific contact listed, “To Whom it May Concern” is an appropriate opening.
  • Use proper formatting.
    There is a standard format that should be followed when writing a cover letter. This post details the anatomy of a proper cover letter.
  • Demonstrate your interest…briefly.
    According to Rebecca Patt, SVP Development at Wray Executive Search, a leading executive search firm for the restaurant and hospitality industry, “Highlight a few of the most salient points about your interest in the job and why you’re a great fit. Keep it crisp and to the point. Beware the stilted, stuffy, fluffy stock phrases that cover letters have devolved into.”
  • Keep it professional.
    Resist the urge to complain about your current boss or why you can’t wait to leave your current job. It comes off as unprofessional in a cover letter. 

Colourful Image of PlanetsSubmitting Your Documents

Once your resume and cover letter are ready, it’s time to submit them to the company in question. But before you attach and click “send,” take a moment to check for any specific submission guidelines listed in the job posting. 

check for any specific submission guidelines

For example, some employers will specify preferred file formats or specific file sizes. Adhere to these guidelines, if applicable. Following these instructions is a great way to indicate from the get-go that you are detail-oriented and take direction well. 

What if you don’t receive confirmation that your documents have been received? If it’s been a few days, Patt advises, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. It doesn’t hurt and may help to follow up to find out your status in the process. Go through the designated channels at the company.” 

Colourful Image of Planets Acing the Job Interview 

The job interview is typically the first time that you and the employer are meeting in person.  It might be in their offices, or it might be conducted remotely, via Skype or phone. Regardless of the format, proper etiquette is all about preparation and research. While this post offers an in-depth guide to all things job interview, here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  • Be respectful of the company culture.
    The job interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your skills…and to show that you’d be a great fit with the company in question. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by showing that you’re in line with the company’s culture. How to do this? For one, dress appropriately. In general, you’ll want to try to match or slightly exceed the dress code on the job. So, this might involve a suit for a traditional business setting, or business casual attire (button-down shirt or blouse and pants or a skirt). Another easy way to show that you’ll fit in? Follow the interviewer’s lead when it comes to your tone and language. Tips for Acing the Job Interview
  • Do your research.
    Do a little sleuthing on the company before you go in for your interview. Be knowledgeable about not just the position offered but the company itself when you walk in the door. Know what they are looking for and why.
  • Be proactive.
    Don’t just sit there during the interview. Take an active interest and ask questions, and lead the conversation to show that you’re the best solution to fill the company’s needs. 

Colourful Image of PlanetsFollowing Up

Don’t dismiss the follow-up! “Your interview is not done until you write a follow-up note thanking everyone who interviewed you,” says Patt. “Keep it short and sweet. Reiterate a few points about the connection you made with the person and why you are a good fit for the job.” For best results, be prompt. Ideally, the follow-up letter should be sent within 24-48 hours of the interview. 

From there, the ball is largely in the potential employer’s court. However, it is appropriate to follow up in a week or so if you haven’t heard back. But if you don’t get a response, don’t push it. According to Patt, “If you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally; just move on.”

Colourful Image of PlanetsAccepting the Job Offer

Yay! You aced the interview, and now you’ve got a job offer. What to do?

What to do after getting a job offer

Start by acknowledging the offer. Whether or not you’re choosing to accept the offer, acknowledge it. If you’d like more time to review it, tell the company in question when to expect your reply. 

“Be gracious,” advises Patt. “Don’t be afraid to negotiate within reason, if you feel it is warranted. Get the offer in writing from the employer, to ensure you are in mutual understanding with the job description and expectations, salary, bonus, benefits, and incentives, so you avoid any misunderstandings later.”

Whether or not you choose to accept the offer, put your response in writing. This also helps avoid any misunderstanding, and it is a show of respect. Even if you don’t accept the offer, it’s never good to burn bridges.

Colourful Image of Planets Job Application Etiquette: The Final Word 

Getting a job can feel like a job in and of itself. Want to cut the process short and get better results? Brush up on proper etiquette. 

Your resume and experience may get you in the door, but ultimately your conduct speaks volumes in terms of getting you the actual offer. By adhering to etiquette best practices, you’re far more likely to make a positive impression on a potential employer and increase your chances of getting the job of your dreams!

About The Author

Jessie Oleson Moore
Jessie Oleson Moore

Jessie Oleson Moore is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer / ghostwriter and artist. As a writer, she has written extensively on finance, day trading, personal growth, and career development and has extensive experience producing in-depth, research-based articles and guides. In addition, she is an accomplished illustrator and author who has appeared on The Today Show and been featured in Publisher's Weekly. In her free time, she’s an avid traveler, Ashtanga yoga practitioner, and unicorn enthusiast.

Rebecca Patt
Rebecca Patt

Rebecca Patt is the Restaurant Executive Recruiter and Senior Vice President of Development at Wray Executive Search, a leading executive search firm for the restaurant and hospitality industry. She specializes in retained executive search for C-level to mid-level positions for food service, restaurants, hospitality, retail, franchising, and related industries. Her clients range from emerging to well-established brands who are looking to build outstanding teams. Her goal is to help companies find extraordinary talent that can help bring them to the highest level.