01/24/2022 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Conference Etiquette Explained

Horizontal shot of handshake between African American man and Caucasian woman pose over pink background, greet each other

Whether hiring conference season is just kicking off or almost wrapping up, it's never a bad idea to refresh our candidates on conference etiquette – especially after we haven't held a full slate of in-person events in three years.

Check out the tips below curated from questions we often receive from candidates during conferences.

Should I send a thank-you note after the conference?

We definitely encourage you to send a note thanking a school for their time and indicating your continued interest in the position. While handwritten notes have a lot of charm, emails are perfectly acceptable and actually give the recipient an easy way to continue the conversation with you. An email sitting in an inbox has more potential for a response than a card that can get easily misplaced. If you do choose to use snail mail, make sure you send it ASAP. We've also had candidates ask if they can drop off handwritten notes at schools' tables during a conference. That's fine, as long as you don't interrupt an active interview.

Can I skip an interview if I'm not interested in the school or position?

You can cancel an interview if you're not interested, but it is strongly discouraged to simply not show up. If a school has gone through the task of finding your profile, reviewing your resume, and scheduling an interview but you're truly not interested, be sure to cancel the interview using the Conference Module. Schools would like to fill that interview slot with another candidate. When it comes to interviews at our conferences, common courtesy should always prevail.

We still highly encourage you to take the interview, have the conversation, and build a relationship. The independent school community is small; you never know when you will cross paths with a hiring contact down the road at a different school. Unless you absolutely cannot live where the school is located, we suggest accepting the interview. A lot can come out of the conversation. We have countless stories of candidates finding really exciting opportunities during an interview they almost cancelled.

Lastly, schools (as well as us here at CS&A) do not appreciate being stood up once you've committed to an interview. Being a no-show can hurt your standing in the hiring process moving forward.

Can I go up to a school's table to chat if I don't have an interview scheduled?

This one's tricky. Conferences are meant to be a day of pre-scheduled interviews and most schools have a full schedule that they need to keep to. For this reason, we don't encourage candidates to drop by a school's table. Talk strategy with your Placement Associate about a particular school you're interested in. Your Associate might be able to alert the school of your desire to meet with them. Most schools, however, prefer that they only talk to candidates who have scheduled interviews. The messaging feature in the Conference Module is another good alternative. Send the school a message that you are at the event, and let them know the times you are available and that you'd love to stop by for a few minutes.

Will a school contact think I'm being rude if I don't want to shake their hand?

Absolutely not. After three-ish years of elbow bumping and air high fives, it's perfectly acceptable to keep your hands to yourself at a conference in order to feel safe. For this exact question, we will be providing comfort badges that will indicate to school contacts your level of comfort with shaking hands.

I'm going to have my suitcase with me because I checked out of my hotel room this morning. Can I bring it to the interview table?

We get this question a lot and the answer is of course! Schools understand that many candidates have traveled far distances and may have their luggage with them. We suggest leaving your suitcase at the hotel's luggage storage area, but if for some reason you can't, bringing it with you is acceptable.

The interview before mine is running longer than 30 minutes. What should I do?

This does happen from time to time. If you go up to a school's table and see there is still an interview in progress, wait nearby for a few minutes. Sometimes the school just needs a little extra time to wrap up. If it continues to run longer, you can move closer to the table and try to make eye contact with the hiring representative to let him or her know you're ready and waiting. That's usually all it takes for the school to end the interview.


Hopefully these answer some of the questions that might come up during a hiring conference. If you ever have a question related to etiquette, or anything for that matter, always feel free to ask your Placement Associate or one of the other CS&A staff members at our events. We hope to see you at an upcoming conference!

Not registered for any of our conferences yet? Learn more and register here.

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