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Top 10 Rules of Engagement

Two men connecting with electric plugs

When communicating with potential employers, recruiters or human resources professionals,there are some simple but important things you can do to make a good impression.  Each rule on its own may not guarantee you a spot on the potential candidate short list, but using all of them can definitely increase your chances of success in the long run.

Are you unsure of how to communicate in a professional way during the job search?

Are you asking these questions?:

“What do I do when I get a reply to sending out my resume?”


“What do I do if I don’t hear back from them?”


“How do I ask about the salary or compensation?”.


My Top 10 Rules of Engagement answer these questions and then some:

Hour Glass with no background

1. Reply quickly.

When you get a phone call or email, reply to it as quickly as possible. This shows interest.  It’s competitive out there and the one who looks the most eager and shows the greatest interest is more likely to get attention.



2. Act professionally at all times.

Keep a professional and respectful attitude throughout the hiring process – take nothing for granted.

  • Don’t use first names with employers or recruiters unless they are your peers or have asked you to do so.
  • Sign off with “Regards” or “Kind regards” as opposed to “Sincerely” or “Yours truly”.
  • Don’t assume anything. You don’t have the job until both parties sign that offer of employment. Until then, you are only a potential. Always remain ready to answer and explain your professional skill set and how it will answer to the job description.


3. Say “Thank you”.

Thank you, and gratitude in general, are powerful tools when communicating with people. When someone has taken any amount of time to review your resume, speak with you or write to you, thank them for it.

Colorful blocks spelling Thank You
  • At the end of cover letters, thank them in advance for considering your application,
  • Thank them for returning a phone call,
  • Thank them for getting back to you
  • Thank them for replying promptly,
  • Email thank you notes immediately after the interview, thank them for taking the time, or for sharing their expertise, or for any advice or help they may have provided.


Man leaning on a blue dollar sign

4. Let them bring up the subject of compensation first.

Do not bring up salary before the employer does.  Be prepared to answer the question “What are your salary expectations?” But don’t bring it up unless they do.


5. Call to follow up on your status – just not too often.

Man and phone

The hiring process can be nerve wracking. I know that a day can seem like a month when you’re waiting for a call. Especially after the employer or recruiter has communicated with you either in response to receiving your resume or after an interview.

They may have said they’d follow up with you, or that they would get back to you and now you’re sitting by the phone waiting.

One way to avoid this stressful time is to ask them in advance if they would mind if you call in a week or so to follow up on the status of your candidacy. If they agree, call in a week and not before – but do call.  If, when you call, you have to leave a message and they have still not contacted you, call back two days later – not before.  Leave one more message if necessary and then you must leave it in the hands of the gods.  There isn’t much more you can do.  They may call at a later date or not at all depending on their circumstances. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

After an interview especially, space your calls by one week. Do not repeatedly call to see if they got your resume or if you got the job.  This behavior is perceived as a sign of desperation. It does not bode well for your future chances with them.

For tips on leaving voice mail messages check out the video How To Leave a Voice Mail Message on the More Videos page.


6. Spell people’s names correctly.

Dear Dianne,

Spell all words correctly for that matter. But names, in particular, are very personally charged words.  We identify ourselves by our names and they are a very integral part of our personal identities. To have it misspelled by someone shows a lack of respect, thoughtfulness, and social courtesy. Look up the name of the person you are writing to and get it right before your hit ‘send’.

Make sure your correspondence is free of spelling errors as well.  Don’t rely on spell check – it’s not reliable.  A good trick is to read your letter or note aloud several times. Most mistakes will stand out when you do this.

Consult my blog post Writing an Email That Will Get Noticed for more strategic tips on sending emails.


7. Include your phone number everywhere.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Never assume someone has your phone number on hand or that they should look it up on your resume, even if they have already called you numerous times. Don’t rely on call display.

Cell Phone
  • When leaving voice mail messages say your phone number slowly and clearly in each message.
  • Make sure it’s under your name at the end of every email and that it appears on any letters you send out.
  • Keep your cell phone near you once you’ve applied to a job.
  • If possible use a cell phone number and not a home number unless you’re home phone has a nice voice mail message on it and/or you are sure the person answering the home phone is an adult you can trust to answer possible job opportunity calls.
  • For more tips on leaving messages see the video How to Leave a Professional Voice Mail Message.


8. Say your name, say your name.

When you call someone, don’t expect that person to recognize you by your voice.  You don’t know what that person is doing or what calls he or she may be expecting at that moment. Especially given that cell phones are universal and calls can literally be conducted from anywhere.

Say your name – both first and last.  “Hi their name, this is your name.”


9. Stay positive and upbeat

Child Smiling

Employers are looking for a new employee.  A shiny new employee who will bring value and solutions to the empty role they have to fill. They like to see vibrant, enthusiastic, and attentive candidates.

In emails use language that expresses that enthusiasm.  Be crystal clear about your value and how eager you are to apply it to their needs.

Sound alert, interested and happy on the phone.

Smile while you speak.  A good trick for this is to have a mirror in front of you while you’re on the phone so you can see yourself.  If you look gloomy you sound gloomy. Smile! It changes everything.  I’ve even used the computer screen or the reflective glass on a wall hanging when necessary.  Use whatever works.


10. Be accommodating as much as possible.

If you are offered an opportunity for an interview (even a telephone interview), whenever possible move heaven and earth to make it at a time that is convenient for the interviewer.

If your time is limited, be up front about that right away.  “Because of my current job situation, I’m only available before 8:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m.  Are these times possible for you?”  If you’re working and have several interviews to line up, you might consider scheduling them all on the same day and taking that day off work.


Happy job hunting!



Arguably the best career advice article I have ever read.


Diane Lee

Thanks again, David.
All the best,

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