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Bad manners will prevent you from getting hired – despite the shortage of skilled workers

In many ways, the shortage of qualified workers is forcing companies to become somewhat less demanding when hiring new personnel – and that not only in the STEM fields. Today, many candidates who would not have made it through even the first part of the selection process due to a non-stellar final grade or missing specialist skill are given a chance. When it comes to good manners, hiring managers haven’t relaxed much, though.


The simple reason for this is that bad manners of an employee can in some cases directly hurt business. That’s true not only for the obvious jobs in sales or public relations. Close interaction and changing work flows across departments have become common. Thus, a bad-mannered can no longer lock themselves in their office. For many, some form of contact to customers and suppliers, or their representatives have become part of the normal work day. Thus, the employer has to be sure that their employees are able to represent the company and leave a good impression.


Consultants in etiquette are busy visiting companies everywhere to give seminars which teach at least the most basic standards for common situations. It starts with the right outfit. Especially in innovative and creative areas, there are deliberately no strict guidelines or dress code, either because talented people are hard to find, or the associated lifestyle puts much emphasis on a casual approach to life. This is mostly true for creative agencies or IT companies.

The mentioned seminars aren’t trying to turn everyone into a mirror image of your typical investment banker and insurance agents, but to generally instill a sense of importance for the matter. Ideally, the general consensus at work should be for everyone to strive for a descent look whenever customers or business partners are expected, whether they be directly involved or not. Companies with fairly regular visitors should set general upper- and lower limits for dress. If such a guideline is discussed in advance with the team and not just instituted by the management, the general acceptance level will be higher than otherwise.


The mentioned consultants increasingly report deficits in what in the past has been referred to as “good upbringing”. The problem occurs on all levels of the company hierarchy. Chief executives who conduct employee meetings with their hands in their trouser pockets have been spotted as well as sales executives who were unable to correctly use knife and fork during a business dinner with customers. Sometimes you really have to start with the basics. In contrast, their occupational expertise of these people is usually outstanding. One doesn’t necessarily correlate with the other.


Ago, too, doesn’t necessarily predict how well-steeped someone is in their manners. Despite the strong prejudice about badly-behaved young generations, the problem doesn’t only affect those new to the job market, but across all generations.


This issue is compounded by an otherwise positive trend: not only huge corporations, but also smaller companies are doing more and more business internationally. As a result more and more people from different cultural backgrounds meet either within the company or during negotiations with customers and suppliers. Anyone not fully sure of their ability to conduct themselves can easily take some missteps, which won’t only be the cause of irritation, but can have direct consequences for business success. Acting shy isn’t a solution either. Usually, a good and self-assured personality comes across more positive – as long as they don’t cross the line toward arrogance.


Another reason why employers have become very careful about manners is the continuing trend towards more flexible and open forms of work. In some extreme cases, a manager might only truly meet their team every couple of days. The rest of the time, they work from home, but are in constant contact with the rest of the world via XING, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. That strongly reduces the manager’s ability to control their team’s behavior, and they just have to trust them. It doesn’t take much to ruin a painstakingly built good reputation, and team- and area-managers shouldn’t have to act as firefighters all the time.

Of course, the “right” kind of communication strongly depends on the industry. Classic industries, Banking, and Insurances companies ask for a more formal approach, while in some more creative jobs first-name-basis is a given. At the end of the day, it depends on the expectations of those you are dealing with. It is hard to formulate strict rules that fit everywhere, and new guidelines aren’t at all necessary, as everyone dealing with the subject will agree. All it takes is to become a little more aware again of traditional values of good manners, no matter what specific company culture you’re signing up for.

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Herr Daniel Stock d.stock(@)top-jobs-europe.de