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A toilet overlooking the financial district is seen in a rest room in The View gallery Jan. 9, 2013. The gallery, on floors 68, 69 and 72, provides 360-degree views. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)
A toilet overlooking the financial district is seen in a rest room in The View gallery Jan. 9, 2013. The gallery, on floors 68, 69 and 72, provides 360-degree views. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)

What's the etiquette on phones in the bathroom? Add to ...

Dear Corporate Governess
A very important call came through while I was in the toilet at work, and I answered it—completely grossing out a colleague who was in the next stall. Is there an etiquette around this?
—Matt L., Calgary

Dear Matt
There is indeed: Just don’t do it. Beyond the common-sense etiquette of not mixing personal bodily functions with business calls, what about the germs you can pick up in a bathroom that can be passed to your phone? You know, the one you put next to your face.

“There are lots of bacteria and viruses that transmit through the fecal-oral route, which is self-descriptive,” says James Scott, a microbiologist and professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. While Dr. Scott shares your colleague’s aesthetic concern—“I get bad vibes when I walk into a washroom and hear a voice coming out of a closed stall”—he says the danger of the bacteria on your cellphone making you sick is still hypothetical. “It could be a risk,” he says. “My guess is that it may be a minor contributor [to illness]. As these technologies increasingly become part of our lives, they are with us when we do intimate things, so they need to be considered as potential players in the communicability of disease.”

But even if you can’t measure the impact by a definite number of infections, think of the ick factor. What matters here is how our actions are perceived. So keep your phone in your pants or purse—at least until you’ve washed your hands.

Dear Corporate Governess
What’s up with the number of interviews that job applicants have to endure these days? I’m well qualified, personable and do my research on the companies, but I am fed up with weeks of interviews. Is there anything I can do?
—Carly B., Toronto

Dear Carly
Companies are on the hunt for the “purple squirrel”—a “practically perfect in every way” Mary Poppins fit—and then they still may not hire you, even for entry-level jobs. That’s backed up by U.S. Labor Department data showing that employers are taking significantly longer to fill vacancies. Is it any different here? Not likely, when big companies such as Starbucks and General Mills have nearly doubled the duration of their interview processes since 2010, according to Glassdoor.com, an international job site. No one really knows whether it’s the ghost of hard times or nervous Nellies afraid to make costly mistakes, so don’t take it personally. Expect a marathon and prepare for it.

Treat each interview like it’s the first one, even if you’re bored of being asked the same questions by a parade of people. You can bet they’ll compare notes later, so you should keep track of your answers: Be consistent on key points while also bringing something fresh to the table. It’s almost an HR mantra that the interviewers are looking for energy and passion, so show yours—fuelled by lattes, chocolate or whatever it takes. You may still feel jerked around, but all will be forgiven if you land the prize.

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