Mrs, Miss or Ms?

Career & Education

Mrs, Miss or Ms?

Sunday, February 02, 2020

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Dear Career Advisor:
I recently participated in an online screening interview. The interviewers were both females who introduced themselves by their first and last names but did not say whether they were "Miss" or "Mrs". They referred to each other by their first names and addressed me that way as well.

That threw me off a bit because I had researched the company but did not see any indication of an informal culture. I wondered if I should have asked them whether or not were married but decided instead to respond to the questions without directly addressing them. At the end of the interview, in thanking them I addressed them as "ladies".

I am curious though, how should a lady be addressed in an interview or formal setting when you don't know if she is married or not?
Yours truly,

Mario

Dear Mario:

Thank you for raising this issue which is of interest to many people. Commendations, as well, for preparing yourself for your interview.
I agree with you that it would have been awkward and inappropriate to ask the ladies whether or not they were married. Under the circumstances, the approach you took was reasonable.

An alternative approach would be to use "Ms" (pronounced "miz") along with their surnames. "Ms" is a neutral alternative to "Miss" or "Mrs" and is therefore an appropriate title to use before the surname of a woman regardless of her marital status. Another option would be to refer to each lady as ma'am, although it is very formal and is frowned upon in some circles and situations.

It appears, though, that your interviewers were trying to get you to be as comfortable as possible in the interview and hence the informal approach was with a view to establishing a friendly rapport. This would especially be so if the workplace culture supports informal interpersonal employee interactions. This you might not have been able to detect from your research.

It's possible that by not adopting the posture they were trying to create, the interviewers considered you inflexible or even unfriendly.
A good tip to bear in mind for the future is the technique commonly referred to as mirroring. This simply means that you adapt or reflect the interviewer's mannerisms and behaviours, within reason, of course. Mirroring the positive aspects of the interviewer's speech and body language helps to build rapport and connects you to the speaker. Using this technique presents you as someone who is socially aware, adaptive and sensitive to the direction/“flight of the ball”, or the needs of the interviewer.

Armed with the above information, you will do even better in your next interview.
All the best.

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president, student services, at Northern Caribbean University in Manchester, Jamaica. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm


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