Chris Morriss, international protocol officer for the State of Oklahoma, got one of her first jobs as a teen at Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, where all employees were judged on their manners, adherence to a strict dress code and the way they greeted customers. Today, Morriss is a key player on Governor Mary Fallin’s International Team, which works to promote Oklahoma in the global economy. Based on her personal and professional experiences, Morriss shares some advice for parents preparing their teenagers or college graduates for interviewing in today’s job market.
“Even as teenagers, your children will be in competition with others, and having the right knowledge and manners might give them the advantage,” Morriss said. “We are all human and we prefer to do business with people we know and like… We’re trying to make a connection and good manners make a difference.”
Look the Part
For job interviews, it’s important to explain to teenagers or new college graduates that they should dress in the uniform of the business sector they’re entering and a level above the job they’re applying for.
“In preparing for the interview, parents should advise their young people to make sure their hair and nails are clean and well-groomed, and shoes are polished,” Morriss said. “Forget the perfume or cologne; avoid harsh makeup or dangling jewelry or anything that makes noise. Hide tattoos, and men should not wear earrings unless they’re interviewing for a job in a business sector where such accessories are the norm.”
Longtime employment expert James “Jim” Farris is president of James Farris Associates, a local full-service human resources consulting firm. He’s seen first-hand the negative effects of people going into professional situations unprepared for business.
“One of my client’s daughters came in and she is a really neat and smart lady, but she had this goth look, including wild-colored hair,” Farris said. “I finally told her that she wasn’t going to have a chance at a corporate job until she changed her look, because she needed to represent the image of the company both at work and to the outside world.”
He said he was afraid he had offended the young lady because he didn’t see her for six to eight months. Then, a young woman who was professionally dressed, with an attractive, natural hair color and style, came into his office.
“It was the same young lady,” Farris said. “I didn’t even recognize her. She said she had taken my advice, got hired by a great company and had come in to thank me.”
Morriss recommends that interviewees should also carry a nice looking pen, bring extra copies of their resumes and bring business or calling cards with their contact information.
“Another important step should happen the night before a job interview, they should try to imagine the outcome they want from the interview, be calm and confident and create a good aura of professionalism. Before the interview, they should turn off any cell phones and electronics, and bring up that calming vision.”
Body Language and Good Manners
Tulsa’s Rachel Wagner is a certified business etiquette expert and owner of Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. She said a technique called “BLT” has helped her to teach young people to present themselves with confidence and in a positive light. And just what is BLT?
“You must be believable, likeable and trustworthy to get a leg up on the competition,” Wagner said. “A lot of BLT is about your interpersonal personal skills and having a high IQ in manners. People will make their first impression of you in just 10 seconds upon meeting you, so dress professionally and understand that 85 percent of your job success will be connected to your people skills and manners, while only 15 percent is based on your background, education and training.
“Good manners set people apart and you want to convey warmth and creditability, so leave your cell phone in the car because a Disco Inferno ringtone doesn’t give the most professional impression and we can still hear your phone on vibrate. While you’re at it, give yourself a professional ringtone, voicemail message and Google yourself and clean up your online image on Facebook and other websites, especially delete any compromising photos.”
She said it is never too early to learn how to give a proper handshake and maintain good eye contact in order to stand out and show you’re a good listener.
At the interview, good behavior and manners will make an impact. Morriss also recommends a firm handshake (neither too hard nor to soft), as well as good eye contact. Don’t be too familiar by using the interviewer‘s first name. Interviewees should wait to be told where to sit, remember not to slouch or cross their legs, but look comfortable with their feet on the floor instead.
Farris agrees. “Good manners are extremely important to win people [over] because employers want to hire people they want to be around,” says Farris. Using good manners shows your potential employer that you have the potential to treat their customers and clients with the same respect, which is key to an employer seeking new employees.
And it goes beyond the actual interview. “Once the interview ends, they should shake hands and thank the interviewer for his or her time,” says Morriss. “As they leave, they should make mental notes of things that were said in the interview for their thank you notes, which should be mailed out the same day because thank you notes make a huge impression.”
By paying attention to details of personal appearance, projecting an air of confidence and courtesy and ultimately minding their best manners, your child can take the first step towards launching the career of their dreams.
Career Training at Moore-Norman Technology Center
Is it ever too early for students to begin considering their career goals? Programs at Moore-Norman Technology Center (MNTC) invite junior high and high school students to start thinking about their goals, and thinking about the skills needed to make them a reality.
Students can earn high school computer and lab science credits through courses such as web design and pre-nursing. College credits that are transferable toward Associate Degree credit at OKCCC, OSU-OKC and Rose State can be earned in fields such as Carpentry, Pre-Engineering and more.
“The design of our classes for high school students is such that they get an accurate experience of workplace expectations and industry demands. Some students know exactly what careers interest them by 15 or 16 years-old, but there are always others would like to explore their options. MNTC provides opportunities for both types of students,” said MNTC Media and Creative Coordinator Anna Trowbridge.
Classes at MNTC are free for students in the Moore and Norman school districts, and students are selected for the program through a rigorous application process that includes career assessment tests and personal interviews to ensure that the career-focused classes are a good pairing. “High school students at MNTC generally have an idea about what work in a certain career filed is like, but after a few semesters in a class like Pre-Nursing, they walk away with industry certifications, a work portfolio and sometimes even internship experience,” says Trowbridge.
Other similar programs exist at technology centers across the metro area, including Francis Tuttle and Metro Technology Centers. For a complete list of the local technology centers in the CareerTech System, visit www.okcareertech.org/technologycenters.
For more information about MNTC and programs for teens (and adults), visit www.mntechnology.com/futurenow or call 405-364-5763.
Kevan Goff-Parker is a longtime award-winning writer, editor and communications leader who has worked for various top companies in Oklahoma, overseas and in Washington state.