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Business manners taught at session

Brian McKenzie | Friday, November 30, 2007

About 100 students joined 15 alumni at a formal business etiquette dinner hosted by the Student Alumni Club and the Alumni Association Thursday night in North Dining Hall.

“[The dinner] is a different way of learning,” said Meeghan Mousaw, the assistant director of Early Alumni Services. “You’ve got to be professional. It makes you feel more comfortable presenting yourself in a business setting.”

She said business etiquette “comes out mostly when you’re dining.”  

The dinner was adapted from a program at the University of North Carolina, Mousaw said.

“Notre Dame is known for its alum network – it’s the best in the world,” she said. “We wanted an alum at every table because it’s important to learn how to connect to your alumni.” 

Mousaw said etiquette was highly relevant to job placement.

She offered an example where an interviewer at a restaurant mentioned the soup was good.  

“The applicant reached over and tasted some of his soup,” she said. “He didn’t get the job.”  

Pat Mousaw, an engineering graduate student, said business etiquette is relevant even to engineers and other scientists.  

“[They are in] fewer situations with customers, but they will have engineering experts come to town to consult or collaborate,” he said. “[They] will have to sell themselves as someone [employers and colleagues] will want to work with, someone they can trust.”

Marc Burdell, the senior director of the Alumni Association, said business etiquette “reflects on the organizational skills” of job candidates. Candidates are expected to send a handwritten thank-you note to their interviewer and dress professionally, he said.

“You can’t be too well-dressed,” he said. “Consider everything you’re wearing. Your attire is your first chance to make an impression. Dressing poorly definitely affects how well you are evaluated.”

Maureen Costello, an image consultant who was the main speaker at the dinner, offered a similar take.

“The most important reason students need professional etiquette is to gain social fluency,” she said. “Conversational arts are a soft skill that will provide job opportunities.”

Costello said she adjusted her dinner to Notre Dame by placing a special emphasis on ethics and integrity.

“Many other places aren’t asking me to talk about that. It’s cutting edge,” she said. “Employers are looking for people with discernment and integrity, employees they can count on to make good judgments to uphold the corporate brand.”  

Employees with poor judgment might cross the line from hosting business partners to making bribes, which is a federal crime, she said.