I was talking to a friend who cleans homes for a living. Over the past two years she and her business partner have become successful enough that expansion is upon them. And therein lies the problem she is facing.
She has had several people apply to work for her and, frankly, she is frustrated. The applicants have displayed a decided lack of professionalism. They don’t reply to emails or return phone calls in a timely manner. They make mistakes in spelling and grammar in their email communications. They are late for appointments. You might not think working for a cleaning service would require attention to these details, but you’d be wrong. Clients have to be able to rely on the people working in their homes to show up on time and to trust them to be careful in their work.
Interestingly, she added that the applicants were often college educated, looking for a job to hold them over while they looked for a position in their chosen fields. She was appalled that they did not understand the basic skills of communication and timeliness. “This is my business and my reputation on the line.” And lest you think she’s considerably older than the applicants, the truth is she is just two years out of college herself.
It doesn’t matter what kind of company you work for: a two-person cleaning service or a Fortune 500 mega corporation. From the moment you make contact in hopes of securing a job to each day at work, professionalism matters. Her business could just as easily be an advertising agency, a real estate office, or a cupcake shop. What’s important is that she started this business with her college friend and together they have worked hard to get established and develop a steady clientele and a great reputation. They are proud of their business and they want their clients to be pleased to have engaged their services. When her employees interact with clients, in essence, they represent her and her partner. Sloppiness in communications, tardiness, or failure to show up will come back to haunt my friend and the success of the business.
The applicants are hurting themselves twice with their lack of basic business etiquette skills. Ultimately, my friend can’t afford to keep on a person who represents her and her business poorly. In addition they hurt their own chances for a positive reference as they move on. “If these applicants can’t be bothered to treat my business and my clients respectfully, how do they expect to get a job in their fields?”
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.