Business Culture: Interviews

Some parts of Canadian business culture might seem a bit silly or strange to our foreign guests. In class, students often say that our emphasis on handshakes, formal interview clothing, or names are new to them.

Handshakes: Your gender doesn’t matter. Your social position doesn’t matter. In business, handshakes are a common way of greeting and showing respect. If you start them, you appear interested in getting to know the other person, or that you are polite. The easy way to remember: shake hands whenever you meet someone, when you make a deal or agreement, or just before you say goodbye.

Interview clothes: It’s better to look formal than it is to look casual. It’s better to look good than not good. Wearing formal clothes to an interview shows a prospective boss that you are serious about the interview, that you value the time, and that you understand Canadian business culture. You probably won’t wear a suit again for work, but as the saying goes,”Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” An easy rule: if you wear that clothing with your friends, it’s too casual for a job interview.

Names: Unless you hear otherwise, call people at your level or below by their first name. Anyone higher than you in the company is Mr. Familyname or Ms. Familyname. If they prefer something different, they will tell you. We don’t use titles related to work (“Engineer Smith,” “Teacher Dave”)in this fashion, unless you work for a professor (“Professor Hanson”) or a doctor “Dr. Hart-Ake.”) Please, never use titles with a first name. Mr. Dave doesn’t show respect; it sounds like you want to sell me something that I don’t want.

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