Professional Etiquette

There are several things you can do to enhance your professional image in order to be prepared to enter the workforce. Holding yourself to a high standard of professional etiquette will enhance your image and help you be prepared and confident no matter the situation.

Dress for Success

Whenever you meet someone in a formal setting, others form their impression of you within the first ten seconds of that meeting. By dressing professionally you can:

  • Demonstrate respect for a potential employer or admissions committee
  • Leave a lasting impression on the employer or professional school
  • Prove that you are serious about the opportunity
  • Boost your self-confidence

Your clothing plays an important part in informing first impressions and we are here to help. 

Use the guide below to understand how you can make a good impression:

Effective Communication

Presenting yourself in a professional manner is a reflection of your character. In addition to appropriate clothing, communication plays an equally important role in making a good impression. Your communication, whether it be in-person or via phone and e-mail, is one of the first opportunities to showcase your strengths and value to a potential employer or graduate program.

Read more below to understand the etiquette around employer interactions, networking, emails, and thank you notes.

Time Management

Managing your time is just as important as dressing and communication as it reflects on your priorities. If you show up late, it indirectly states that the person or event is not important enough for you to show up on time. Respect other people’s time and they will respect yours. Whether you or late or early, it establishes your reputation and you want a positive one so be conscious of when you arrive.

References and Recommendations

When asked to provide references for a job or professional school, you may need to submit a document with your references' contact information or enter this information into an online application. While 'references' and 'recommendations' are often used interchangeably, a reference is often given via phone or email in the final stages of the hiring process and is a general endorsement of your character, experience, and skills. Recommendation letters are generally formal letters geared towards presenting an evaluation of your eligibility for graduate school or other academic programs. Read through our Dos and Don'ts to get started with references:


  • Make a list of potential references: Your references should have interacted with you in an academic or professional setting. The better they know you, the stronger your reference will be. Usually, students reach out to people like professors, supervisors, advisors, UT staff, and professional contacts.
  • Pick references that are a good fit and know you well: If you didn’t have a lot of personal interaction with someone, they probably won’t be the best reference because they won’t know how to talk about your personality, skills, or experience. Make sure you choose references who know you well and can speak about your abilities.
  • Reach out to your references to get their permission: Contact potential references and ask permission to use them as one of your references at the beginning of your job or internship search. While doing so, send them your updated resume and a description of the job or program you are applying for so they can be prepared. 
  • Include necessary contact information and details for each reference: For each reference, include the person’s name, your relationship to this person (supervisor, professor, etc.), their current job title, current company they work for, and contact information. Be sure to include both an up-to-date phone number and email address for each reference.
  • Follow up with references after your job search: Give references an update on the outcome of their reference for the job or program you applied to. Your references are cheering you on and they always want to know what happens! 


  • Use someone as a reference until they have given you permission: Regardless of your relationship with a potential reference, make sure to ask them permission via email or another appropriate method of communication. This is respectful and makes sure there are no surprises for them or you.
  • Use a friend or family member: Friends and families are usually not considered to be 'professional' references and should be avoided. This is because they often can't give an objective view of the things employees are interested in knowing, such as your work history, work ethic, or how you will behave as an employee. Instead, you should opt for someone with whom you have worked in a professional or academic environment.
  • Have only 1 reference: Most employers require at least 3 references for a job application. Make sure to have 3-5 references prepared to submit depending on the type of application.
  • Use someone as a reference that does not know you well: It's very important for your reference to be able to speak to your abilities and experience. Make sure any reference you submit knows you well enough to do this.
  • Use outdated phone numbers or email addresses: Make sure to confirm your reference's email address and phone number before submitting their information. You can ask for their up-to-date information while getting their permission to use them as a reference.

Use the following template to help structure your references: 

CNS Reference Template

Ethical Recruiting Practices for CNS Students

The College of Natural Sciences Career Services Office strives to provide services and programs to empower students in career exploration, professional development and networking opportunities to connect with employers.  It is important for the professional development of students that they learn to conduct themselves in an ethical manner.  Failure to honour agreements with recruiters reflects poorly on the student as well as the University. 

All students are expected to read and understand these guidelines in addition to the consequences of violating these guidelines. 


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