Julia Posillico ’25 shares her first-hand experience during the Business Etiquette Dinner on March 1, 2023.
Last night the Holy Cross Sales Club organized a business etiquette dinner run by a managing director and two recruiters from Northwestern Mutual. Nearly thirty students were in attendance and were served a three-course meal while getting advice on networking, interviewing, and etiquette at business meals. So what were the main takeaways from the event?
When it comes to networking, do your research before you attend an event and know who is going. When you get there make sure you are conscious of who you are talking to with your limited time, and focus on quality over quantity. Making connections with people who already have a lot of connections can be helpful since they can then make additional introductions for you. Also, have easy conversation starters and ways to end one, too. For instance, start with comments on a neutral topic such as why you attending the event, and to end a conversation you could introduce them to someone else. Make sure you have a short but informative elevator pitch and listen more than you speak. If you have a name tag, be suer to put it on your right side so that when you shake hands with someone it is visible.
What you wear to networking events and interviews is extremely important to make a good first impression. If you are unsure how fancy to dress, always overdress. If you are questioning if something is appropriate, it probably isn’t. Also, little things matter with your appearance. For example, chipped nails and wrinkled clothes are avoidable and easy ways to improve a first impression. Another important point to remember is just because you are away at college it is not an excuse to dress poorly. If you know you are attending an event make sure you have appropriate clothing that fits you well.
The main focus of the event was mealtime etiquette. Beginning with the place setting, forks are always on your left. An easy way to remember this is “fork” and “left” both have four letters while spoons and knives are on the right (“right”, “spoon” and “knife” all have five letters). If you sit down and are unsure of which bread plate or water glass is yours a simple trick to remember this is to touch your index finger to your thumb to make a “b” with your left hand and a “d” with your right hand. This is how you know the bread dish is on your left and your drink is on your right. When you are ordering make sure you don’t get something that will be messy to eat and it’s best to avoid ordering a known allergen if you know someone at the table has a food allergy. When you are eating, start with the fork that is on the outside and work your way in toward your plate. If you are unsure of what utensils to use just wait and see what others are using. When you are done eating put your utensils together at four o’clock on your plate to symbolize you are done.
The recruiter’s presentation also shared some of their favorite interview questions. They emphasized the importance of asking questions and shared some of their favorites.
- What are the best/worst parts of working for the company?
- What are the biggest challenges new interns typically experience?
- What are the company’s values and what charity work is the company part of?
It was really great learning about etiquette and networking outside of a classroom environment. We got to learn about etiquette in a hands-on setting, practicing talking with our peers while eating the meal. They gave us the opportunity to try on our own first and learn from our mistakes. All but three of us had the name tag on the wrong side and some of us struggled to know which cup to drink out of. This helped the new information stick in our minds to ensure we never make those mistakes again. It was an extremely educational experience and now I feel much more confident and ready to attend my next business meal.