Dining etiquettes during an interview

Meal interviews are multi-tasking nightmares. Although the primary purpose is the interview, there’s a secondary purpose to these “mind-your-manners interviews” such as: ‘How well do you handle yourself during a business meal?’ During the course of my career I’ve seen quite a few ghastly faux pas that have nixed an otherwise capable candidate.

The dinner or luncheon interview will usually take place in a fairly nice restaurant that offers a quiet atmosphere. Plan to arrive twenty minutes early to allow a “freshening-up” visit to the rest- room. A crooked tie, a belt that is not centered, mussed hair, or an open fly is disastrous. You also need a few minutes to relax before meeting the interviewer(s).

The dinner interview should be a much softer sell than the preliminary interview (where you went for the jugular to prove that you meet the requirements). The company feels reasonably assured that you can do the job, but now needs to confirm that you fit in with the company. Your personal demeanor will be a primary factor in this type of interview. Let the interviewer guide the topics of discussion, but occasionally reinforce an important prerequisite strength. Don’t be surprised to find conversation oriented toward politics, movies, or other general issues unrelated to the job. The interviewer is interested in knowing about you as a human being.

It may be tempting to get overly familiar with the interviewer after you share a few laughs and start hitting it off. Don’t let your guard down.

Consider the meal you have with the potential employer as part of the interview process.

Here are some points to remember:

1. Enter the chair from the left and exit the right.

2. Preparing Conversation Makers:

How long have you been with the company?

What do you enjoy most about your position?

What was one of the most challenging things you encountered when you first started working here?

How would you describe the culture of this company?

How is this position evaluated?

How do coworkers view this position?

What other types of positions will I have regular contact with?

As my supervisor, how often will I have contact with you?

How would you describe your management style?

3. Try to find common grounds of interest (sports, travel) that are not controversial. Do not neglect anyone sitting near you.

4. As the employer will be paying for the meal, order from the mid-priced offerings on the menu.

5. Eat lightly and avoid messy food. Ordering for spaghetti or other such complicated food is not advisable. You will be doing more talking than eating and you don’t want to be wearing your lunch during the afternoon interviews.

6. Be very cautious about ordering alcohol, as it is important to remain alert during the whole interview process. It is recommended that no alcohol be consumed at lunch and no more than one glass of wine in the evening and then only if others are drinking. It is always acceptable to substitute mineral water for wine.

7. Always pass the salt and pepper together, even if only one is asked for.In general,if items are not being passed to a specific person, pass food from left to right.

8. Don’t talk when you have food in your mouth, and don’t wave or point with a utensil. Eat smaller bites and excuse yourself if a question was thrown at you while you were chewing.

9. Understand the table setting. Your bread plate is to the left of your dinner plate and your water glass to the right. Use your utensils from the outside in.

10. Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down. If you leave for a few moments during the meal, place your napkin on your chair. When you leave at the end of the meal, leave your napkin to the left of your dinner plate.

11. Never butter a whole piece of bread. Take some butter and place it on your plate. Use the butter knife if one is available. Break a bite-sized piece off of your bread and hold it on the corner of the bread plate while you butter.

12. Eat soup taking the spoon away from you, then toward you and sip from the side. When you have finished soup, always place the spoon in the saucer under the soup bowl.

13. Cutting: Fork in left hand, knife in right hand, cut one piece at a time, lay knife across top of plate with blade toward you and move fork to right hand. When you have completed a meal, place your knife and fork across the plate in a 9 to 3 o’clock fashion.

After the interview, praise yourself for doing something really well. Help yourself by recognizing something you want to improve next time and remind yourself that you’ll improve each time you interview.

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