Davis’ tips for making a good first impression
Listen before speaking
Use correct grammar
Look people in the eye when speaking with them
Don’t eat until everyone at the table has their plate
Don’t sit down at the table until the host or hostess takes their place
Leave the cellphone in the car
Dress appropriately; never wear jeans to a job interview
Dresses and skirts shouldn’t be shorter than knee length
Always send a personal handwritten note after an interview
"It only takes a few seconds to make that first impression," Connie Davis said. "But it takes a long time to reverse it."
Davis, an etiquette consultant and owner of Tastefully Growing Up in Gainesville, gave students at Brenau University a lesson in dining etiquette, networking and making a positive first impression.
Students participated in several skill-building events during Professional Development Week, March 25-27, at the university. Each day of the week, they attended an event highlighting the different challenges they will face when they join the workforce after graduation. Topics ranged from resume, cover letter writing and interviewing to proper follow-up and general etiquette.
Davis, a Brenau alumni who has worked in human relations, shared tips for success with the students at a gala reception Tuesday night at the Northeast Georgia History Center. Seventy students learned the proper way to work a room, dine in a formal setting and everything in between.
Davis said the program covers a multitude of etiquette questions. Students were taught the proper way to sit up and stand, which utensils to use for what in a formal meal, where to store a purse, how to ask for more bread, and even which direction to point the blade of a knife.
Davis shared some of the different interviewing strategies students may encounter.
"Some people test you by taking you out," Davis said. "Just to see ‘Will this person be what I want to help me in business? Will they identify with my business and make the best impression for my business?’"
The event also featured a fashion show to help students get a feel for proper job interview attire.
"If they can not only look the part, but be the part in any type of position," Davis said. "These girls and guys are going to school to get a good job. It’s a tough time for anybody to get a good position right now."
Davis said her hope is students will feel more prepared to showcase their skills to employers if they know how to present themselves in a socially appropriate way. She explained a applicant’s appearance is the first thing an employer will notice. While attire is critically important in an interview, many people do not realize it is more involved than wearing a suit and tie or dress.
"Appearance is the way you look and carry yourself," Davis said. "It’s the way you sit, speak, make eye contact and shake hands."
Davis said the process of interviewing seems to have been brought down to a more casual level in recent years. Many job-seekers forgo traditional business wear in favor of casual blue jeans.
She speculates part of the reason for the trend is because parents just are not teaching their children these skills anymore. Through her company, she holds etiquette training events for children as young as 4 years old to adults. She said the program makes people feel more confident in any social situation, whether they are eating hot dogs at a barbecue or caviar at a formal restaurant.
"I don’t care what kind of family situation you’re from," Davis said. "Economics aren’t involved in it. This program is one that has no negatives. It’s just for everybody."
Throughout the years, Davis said she’s heard countless stories about how the program has helped people find work and start their careers.
Rachel Zarach, a junior majoring in mass communications, helped to organize the week’s events as part of her public relations class.
She recently had an interview for a marketing job in Atlanta. She said the skills she learned from Davis and other events served her well. She has been asked to a final third interview.
"We just learned so much, it was crazy," Zarach said. "Those little itty-bitty details that you never even think about, they taught us."
She said she learned the proper place to put her discarded sugar packets is under her saucer and to avoid touching her spoon to the glass as she stirs her tea. Zarach said she was impressed by how much they were able to cover in a short time.
"The whole atmosphere was very professional," Zarach said. "We felt like we were in a real job interview."