One of Callista Gould’s favorite stories is about a recruiter who had just begun interviewing a soon-to-be college graduate when the job seeker’s cellphone rang. 

“The young woman answered it and talked for a minute,” Gould said. “Then she turned to the interviewer and said, ‘How much longer is this going to take?’”

The recruiter smiled and said, “We’re done.”

Gould, who is a certified etiquette instructor, hears a lot of stories about people with atrocious manners, and she shares many of them in her etiquette “Tip of the Week,” which you can sign up for on her website: cultureandmanners.com.

Some stories are about people eating with their mouths open or not knowing which fork to use. (Work from the outside in; the desert fork is above your plate.)

Other stories are about workplace wardrobes.

If your outfit could speak, Gould often says, would it say, “I’m in charge”? Or would it say, “What would you like from the deli?”? A good rule of thumb is: Be consistent. Fashionable jeans and casual shirts are OK in some industries, including advertising and technology, while coats and ties are standard for lawyers and other professionals who interact with clients.  

There are also myriad questions about social settings, ranging from “What is a good way to meet people in a crowd?” to “How do you gracefully disengage from a conversation?” or “When is it appropriate to interrupt?”

Gould, who grew up in Des Moines, majored in English and medieval studies at the University of Iowa. Her first career was in marketing and promotion for businesses as diverse as Amana Appliances and Sony Music.

Along the way, she earned an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago, but she found her real niche when her job at Sony gave her new insights into how behavior can affect people’s careers.

She noticed that many talented artists did not make it past their first album because they treated people around them so poorly. On the other hand, she said, Ozzy Osbourne, despite his crazy persona, “was a very nice man with good manners.” People around him liked him and helped him succeed, she said.

Gould moved back to Des Moines in 2006 to help her ailing father at a time when there was a lot of discussion nationally about the growing lack of civility. She attended the St. Louis-based Etiquette Institute and became a certified etiquette instructor, and then she opened a business in Des Moines called the Culture and Manners Institute.

It began slowly with presentations to college students and small groups of young professionals, but the business grew, and today Gould conducts seminars and makes presentations from Connecticut to California.  

She’s also branching out into comedy and is creating a small group of local business professionals who will begin performing stand-up comedy early next year.

But her new funny business won’t interfere with her day job, which is teaching good manners.

They used to be taught around the family dinner table, but with today’s hectic schedules, that rarely happens. In fact, family members today are as likely to engage with their cellphones at the dinner table as with each other.

Part of Gould’s job is to get us all to stop communicating so much with our thumbs and to engage in more face-to-face conversations.

It’s not really that difficult.

“Etiquette is about making the people around you feel comfortable and about consideration of others,” she said.

So the next time you are at a reception, instead of pulling out your cellphone to check your messages, look for someone else standing alone and go over and introduce yourself.

Chances are, you will find the conversation far more interesting than anything on your cellphone.