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Etiquette: the cheapest, easiest and most important skill you'll ever learn

Across America, the fine art of Etiquette has become a burgeoning industry. Corporate America has embraced good manners as one of the most important factors in making business and hiring decisions. While everyone recognizes the importance of such standard modes of decorum as "put your napkin in your lap," becoming familiar with Advanced Etiquette rules will help you grow more confident and poised in business situations.

People tend to think of Etiquette as something foreign and scary, reserved for only the rich and powerful, but that simply is not true. Good manners are for everyone, and those who have exemplary manners are generally well-liked. Etiquette is easy when you remember its raison d'être: to make it possible for people in society to co-exist without hurting each other or infringing upon each other's rights. That's it. You don't have to know the difference between a fish fork and a desert fork - that isn't relevant to day to day life, anyway. All you have to know is Good Manners means making others feel comfortable. See how easy that is?

One of the most important ways you can display good manners is to show respect to others. Do not interrupt other people when they are talking. This can be a hard rule by which to abide, especially in a casual environment. However, diligence in respecting others will make you not only more likable, but will allow you to learn a lot about your job, your company, and the people with whom you work. So pipe down and give someone else the floor for a while. You might learn something important.

How you carry yourself is a glaring reflection on you as well, so make sure you get over any offensive habits before stepping foot inside the office. That means no gum chewing or nail biting. Not only are these habits disgusting to watch, but they also show you to have no self-control, no discipline. Self-control and discipline are critical traits to have in business.

Even if you have a fantastic, radio-ready voice and tell the most witty jokes in the world, no one will want to listen to you if you shout everything you say, so keep your voice down, please. This is especially important in a shared office, where you cannot escape the noise of your co-workers. You don't have to whisper your telephone conversations, but if you have a voice that carries, make sure you modulate its volume.

It goes without saying that what you say is as important as how you say it, so leave the profanities for Saturday night bar brawls. In business, polite people do not curse. Especially when they are angry. You shouldn't either. If curse-words are a regular part of your vocabulary, replace them with other words, even silly words. It is preferable to say that "dang copier ate my original" to using the obscene version. Even better would be to use an original description like "that infernal copier ate my original." Your meaning hasn't changed - you still express displeasure at and insult the copier - without sacrificing your professional image.

Maintaining a professional image should be your number one priority on the job, and good manners are a necessary component of this. Pick up a guide to etiquette at your library or a bookstore. There are literally hundreds of volumes out there, some which are geared specifically towards business. Learning the simple rules of polite society will make you feel more comfortable in unfamiliar situations, on interviews, in every situation in which you want to shine.

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AppleOne was very professional and respectful of my time. As a mature, seasoned professional, I was very pleased that I was not treated like someone just entering the job market.

- Darryl Henderson -


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