You wouldn’t sneeze into your hand before a handshake, would you?

Or show up to an interview in your pyjamas?

And least of all, swear in front of a potential employer or client?

When it comes to networking, there are just some unspoken rules of etiquette that govern how we interact.

But not every rule has to be unspoken. For instance, today we’re going to be speaking about the rules of business card etiquette, so that you don’t make a faux pas that costs you your next best opportunity!

Business cards are everywhere. They are a mainstay for marketing yourself — whether you’re a jobseeker, worker, or entrepreneur — and you should be using them if you aren’t already. Having a quick and painless way to share your contact information makes you more accessible to the people who will provide you with the opportunities for work that you really need.

But at the same time, like any tool, if you use it incorrectly you’ll end up reducing your results.

So here are our 3 best behaviours for you that will help you maximize the way you use business cards, and let you become an etiquette expert!

  1. No ask, no pass

The most common rookie mistake in networking with business cards is to hand them out like junk mail.

But if you want to use business cards like a boss, then you need to only present them to people who have asked for one.

Nothing taints an encounter like the dull reminder that the other person just wants something out of you for themselves. And when you aggressively hand out your business card without prompting, it shows the other person that you’re focus is on getting something out of them.

It also makes you look desperate and weak. Your contact information should be a tool to continue positive conversations, not a last-ditch effort to initiate a conversation in the first place.

See, there’s a major difference between marketing yourself with a business card, and just marketing yourself. You can advertise yourself and your contact info online, or wherever, as much as you want. You can flagrantly put yourself in front of potential employers or clients with advertising campaigns, no problem. 

But when it comes to your business card, you need to be selective. You should only be handing over your card once you’ve warmed up a lead, and they are actually interested in what you have to offer.

So unless they’ve asked for your contact info, or you can guarantee 100% that they want it, then don’t drop the card just yet.

  1. Give reverence to the exchange

The act of handing over a business card may seem small, but it’s steeped in subtle cues about how you perceive the other person.

When exchanging business cards, don’t just slip it into your pocket. Take a moment to examine it, and show that you are interested in their card (in order to show them that you’re interested in THEM).

Remember that receiving business cards is just as important as giving them out. Moreso, even.

When you give out cards, the other person may or may not follow up with you. But every business card that you ask for is one guaranteed opportunity for you to follow up with someone.

One great way to remind others about where you left off, so that you can encourage them to carry on the conversation, is to take the time to write them a quick note on the back of the card.

Write something about what you discussed, or the name of the conference you met at for example. Adding a personal touch shows you care about the exchange as much as them.

  1. Use it or lose it

Relationships are a lot like a muscle. You have to exercise them to keep them in good shape.

The biggest mistake you can make when receiving a business card is to waste the opportunity to carry on your relationship with that person.

So after you receive a business card, be sure to follow up with the person. Just a quick call, text, or email is enough to let them know you appreciated their time and you hope to stay in touch.

Networking is a passive game. Like gardening, you plant your seeds, but then it’s mostly just waiting for them to grow on their own.

But you still need to take the action of planting the seeds. And the right way to do that is to meet someone, ask for their contact information, then follow up so they know you’re connected.

After that, the connections you’ve made will develop naturally and organically. All it takes is one little push to get the ball rolling.


Business cards are a great networking tool. But like any tool, you need to know how to use it.

And if you follow our best behaviours, not only will you avoid using them the wrong way, you’ll use them in a way that will help you foster the social connections you need to succeed!