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Etiquette Event Teaches Protocol For Dinner Interviews

March 30, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Tara Lestarejette

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Social expert Diane Gottsman hosts seminars around the country that teach professionals dining etiquette. These "soft skills," she says, give people an edge when interviewing over dinner, a new trend employed by businesses. —Submitted photo

Sam Houston State University students might be surprised to find out that being well rounded isn’t the only thing that will help when looking for a job.

A recent study by Harvard University has found that 85 percent of employers are not just looking for an elaborate resume.

As a new class of seniors prepares to enter a workforce struck by economic difficulty, SHSU’s Career Services will offer upperclassmen the opportunity to sharpen their appeal to employers during their fourth annual Etiquette Dinner. Social expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas Diane Gottsman will lead the discussion on April 20.

According to Gottsman, a set of skills that sets applicants apart from the crowd, known as “soft skills,” provides job seekers “the ability to project a professional image while putting others at ease.”

To test these skills, employers are increasingly selecting the dining table as the location for a second interview, making it essential for students to make good etiquette impression.

“We work with recruiters on campus that use a dinner setting for their second or third round of interviews,” said Paige Loft, Career Services special event coordinator. “Most of them invite a group of candidates to their headquarters for a tour and dinner reception afterward.”

To aid juniors and seniors as they transition from college to the competitive marketplace, Gottsman’s etiquette dinner coaches students on the “dos and don’ts” of dining and networking during a four-course meal during which they will be instructed on how to handle an accident at the table and which foods to avoid when ordering a meal during a job interview.

“Dining is an integral part of the student's adult life, both socially and professionally,” said Gottsman. “Even if the student does not plan to work in a corporate environment, dining essentials include much more than getting a fork to your mouth. People always have dining questions and most of us ask the person sitting next to us, but who can afford to be wrong when trying to make a good impression?”

Lauren Bazunu, a senior majoring in biology at SHSU, attended the dinner in April 2009 and said that the experience was beneficial and enjoyable.

“The networking session was my favorite,” said Bazunu. “I was able to try my hand at what I thought to be correct networking and then learn the correct way and practice. This is one aspect of job hunting and interviews everyone should be able to conquer. I enjoyed that it was like an interactive classroom, very hands-on.”

Gottsman has a unique approach that helps students relax while they learn and teaches them that etiquette is not only having good manners but also understanding how to put others at ease, according to Loft.

“Every aspect of the evening is informative,” she said. “You learn the proper way to shake hands and have an in-depth discussion over dinner. The speaker is very interactive; she allows questions throughout the entire process and expects you to use the tips throughout the evening.”

Over the past three years, the etiquette event has grown in attendance as Career Services has been given positive feedback, according to Loft.

“I am constantly getting letters and e-mails telling me how much the dining etiquette sessions have helped students, both professionally and socially,” said Gottsman. “It's a great feeling to know that the skills you learn at the event will last a lifetime. I always enjoy my time with Sam Houston and find the students to be extremely smart and engaging.”

The dinner will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.

Tickets are $10 and may be reserved on the Jobs 4 Kats website or in the Career Services Office, in Academic Building IV Suite 210.

For more information, call Career Services at 936.294.1713 or visit Gottsman’s website.

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