Office of Career Services



As you prepare for an interview or start a new job, developing your social & dining skills is essential. Career Services, with the assistance of Ms. Nonnie Cameron, author and nationally known speaker on professional etiquette, has gathered some useful tips on business etiquette.

Etiquette Dinner

How are your dining and social skills? Do you know what to do with your gum when you are ready to eat? Do you know which plate is for your salad and which one is for your bread? What do you do with your napkin when you are finished? Is it ever okay to stack plates on the table? These are some of the many questions answered at Career Services' annual "Etiquette Dinner" held each fall. The dinner features nationally recognized etiquette trainer and director of The Protocol School of Texas Diane Gottsman,  who instructs students on the ins and outs of dining and social etiquette, while giving personal assistance and helpful tips throughout the dinner courses. Students learn what is appropriate dining etiquette for hors d'oeuvres, as well as for each step of the main courses.

Define Etiquette

With this handy reference, you can be sure to understand the basics of etiquette and professional conduct.


The rules of Decorum. Etiquette is the usual word for the code governing manners and conduct, and for observance of these rules.


Decency, propriety, dignity. All of these are a code of rules respecting what is right, fitting, or honorable.


A customary way of acting. Usually polite, distinguished.


The rules prescribing the etiquette in ceremonies of state. The code prescribing reference to rank and strict adherence to due order of preference and correct procedure, as in diplomatic exchange and ceremonies.

Faux- pas

A false step. A social blunder, whether verbal or by act. (It is pronounced "fo-pah") Another word for faux pas is gaffe.


Assertive in a dominating manner. Usually offensive.


Bold with self confidence in expressing oneself. An assertive person is a problem solver

Introductions and Greetings

How's your handshake? Do you know how to properly introduce a client or boss? These instructions will equip you with the necessary information to make introductions and greetings a breeze.


  • Stand up when meeting people.
  • Go around anything that is between you and the person you are being introduced to (i.e. furniture).
  • Pay attention to the other person. Look alert and interested. Often, you will have a better chance of remembering their name.

Rules of the Handshake

  1. Extend your hand in an open vertical, flat position.
  2. Tilt your fingers down with your thumb up, exposing the web of your hand towards the other person.
  3. Go in for the handshake, grabbing the other person's hand in a firm but not crushing handshake.
  4. Never pat the top of the hand.
  5. Finally, get your hand back. The length of the handshake should be 2-3 seconds

Deference to Introductions

Deference refers to common courtesy that is extended to one another. With regard to introductions, juniors are always presented to seniors. A common rule is to introduce the highest ranking person first, and then introduce everyone to him/her. Deference is based on rank in a company and not on gender. Also, remember that a client ALWAYS outranks someone from within your company (even your supervisor).

  • Avoid referring to individuals by their first name. This assumes a friendly relationship and often is not appropriate.
  • Use the name that was given during the introduction. "Steven is Steven, NOT Steve."
  • Name tags should ALWAYS be placed on the right side, so an individual may easily look at your name when shaking your hand.
  • If you forget someone's name, take the embarrassment upon yourself. Say something like, "I'm sorry I know that we have met before, you are...?"
  • Always remember to close an introduction by saying something like, "It was nice to have met you." Never simply walk away.


Learn the art of social conversation and appropriate topics of conversation for formal and informal occasions.Social conversation is very important. Often social conversation can be boring if we are uninterested in talking or if the talk does not pertain to ourselves. It is important to always be attentive. Here are some basic rules regarding social conversation:

  • Keep it short! It is social conversation after all.
  • Avoid talking about topics that evoke opinions or emotions. Examples of these are: Religion, politics and money.
  • Watch your speech patterns. Do you interrupt people when they are speaking? Do you finish other people's statements? If so you are not listening to the speaker!
  • It is important not to monopolize the conversation.
  • If you experience rudeness in conversation, ignore it. Don't waste your time and energy thinking about it. If appropriate and under extreme circumstances, address it in private with the individual.
  • If someone extends you a compliment, accept the compliment. Also, if you are the one extending the compliment; always be sincere.
  • Always think twice about criticizing someone. Ask yourself, is it your place to be critical? Always be constructive and do it in private.
  • Never complain. If you are experiencing a problem, deal with it yourself.

What to Talk About?

Here are some possible topics of conversation:

  • current events
  • positive news
  • books and trade publications
  • the event at hand
  • personal hobbies
  • the entertainment world
  • topics in your line of work

Communication Barriers

There are a great many barriers to effective communication. If you are too tired, too bored, too hungry, or too angry, you will not be effective. Bad posture, negative facial expressions, poor body language, and bad grammar can also distract people from what you are attempting to communicate.

Social Manners

We've got the low-down on how to be a host and what to do when you're a guest at a party or function. These helpful hints regarding social manners will ensure that you leave a lasting and positive impression:

  • When invited to a party, it is always best to reply within one week of receipt of the invitation. If you accept the invitation, GO! If you do not accept, DO NOT GO!
  • If your name is the only name on the invitation, you are the only guest. Do not bring a date or companion.
  • If you are not sure what to wear to the party, ask your host. If they say something like "Business Casual," find out what they mean by it. Ask others who are attending what they are wearing.
  • If you are a guest, BE ON TIME! There is no such thing as being "fashionably late."
  • If you are presenting a host gift (which is a nice gesture), make sure that it is a gift, not groceries. Take anything out of the bag and always take off the price tag. If the gift is white wine and is meant to be served with the meal, it should already be chilled and ready to serve. Otherwise, it may be presented warm.
  • Don't arrive starved. Food is not the purpose of the party, business is.
  • If you are a smoker, always ask your host permission to smoke. If you do not see any ash trays around, the likelihood is that it is a non-smoking home. Get used to being asked to smoke outside or in the garage.
  • If you decide to drink, you should limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per hour, sipped throughout the hour.
  • When you write thank-you notes, you should always hand address the envelope unless you have bad handwriting, You should always use a stamp, not metered mail and send the thank you within twenty-four hours.
  • When sending a more formal, professional thank you, type it on the computer in a business letter format. Make sure to correctly spell the host's name and title. It may be advantageous to send multiple thank you's if you had several hosts or it was a reception or dinner.

Role of the Host

  • As a host, you should clarify your role. Choose an appropriate restaurant and make reservations. If you are confirming for a breakfast, you should do so the afternoon before; for lunch, that morning; and if for dinner, the afternoon of the dinner.
  • You should arrive early and wait by the door to greet your guests.
  • While you wait, order water or soft drinks, but don't begin eating the bread.
  • If your guests are over fifteen to twenty minutes late, you should call and tell them that you are waiting. Wait five or ten more minutes and then decide whether you want to eat alone or leave. If you depart, you should leave a message with the host and tip the waiter.
  • You can make menu suggestions to your guests, and if they order an appetizer or soup, order one too.
  • You are responsible for initiating business talk. If it is a breakfast meal, keep social conversation to a minimum; if it is a lunch meal, you can converse until orders are taken, but then get down to business; if it is a dinner meal, business may or may not be spoken. If spouses/partners are included, never talk business.
  • Don't make a big production about the bill. It is best if you give your credit card to the waiter before the meal so that the bill never comes to the table.

Role of the Guest

  • You should always be on time and call if you are going to be late. Allow the host to lead and never fight over the bill. Always be courteous and thank the host.
  • Keep your briefcase and/or purse off the table.
  • Always go to the bathroom to apply your make-up or fix your hair. Never do it at the table.
  • Turn off your cellular phone during a business meeting. Use public phones when available, or excuse yourself to the bathroom/foyer/phone area to make a call on your cellular phone.
  • Never correct others' poor manners.