Preparing for a job interview is stressful enough. Add a meal in to the mix and the event can produce even more pressure and nervousness. Some companies even schedule their interviews over a meal on purpose – just to see how you will handle this delicate social situation.
Keep the following tips in mind if your interview is scheduled over a meal:
Remember your table manners. We are all raised differently when it comes to manners at the dinner table, but there are some common societal rules associated with dining. Put your napkin on your lap – even if it’s paper. Keep your elbows off the table. Don’t slurp your soup. Don’t chew with your mouth open. And don’t talk with your mouth full.
Stay dry. Avoid messy food items like tacos, soups, wings, and dishes with sauce. The wetter the food, the more likely it is that you will spill something on the table, or even worse, yourself. Skip dessert unless your host is ordering it…follow their lead.
Order light. Now is not the time for world’s biggest steak, the whole fried chicken, or the three-course meal. Stick with lighter alternatives that show you can make moderate and healthy choices.
Don’t get drunk. Don’t do anything that will throw you off your game. Follow the lead of your host, if they order a glass of wine – feel free to join in, but don’t over do it. If you’re a lightweight, it is best to stick with non-alcoholic choices.
Don’t be picky. Choose something from the menu that doesn’t require much alteration to satisfy your palate. If you make a lot of requests and changes to your order, you could leave the interviewer with the impression that you’re just too picky.
Be neat. Wipe your mouth if you think you have something on your face – don’t lick it off of your lips. Cut your food in reasonably sized bites, and then put your knife down and use your primary hand to eat with your fork. Fold your napkin at the end of the meal and tuck your chair after you get up.
Eating with your interviewer can be a rewarding experience. It gets them (and you) out of the sterile conference room environment and helps you forge a bond with your potential new employer. Stick with these tips and you’ll be right on track for making a good impression.
What other tips do readers have for handling an interview over a meal?
Mike Spinale is a corporate Human Resources leader at a healthcare information technology company located outside of Boston, Massachusetts and is an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University. He has over eight years of experience in HR and management including career counseling, recruitment, staffing, employment branding, and talent management. Mike has dedicated his HR career to modern views on the field – HR is not about the personnel files – it’s about bringing on the best talent, ensuring they’re in the right seat, and keeping them motivated and growing in their careers. In addition, Mike is the author of the CareerSpin blog where he offers advice and opinion on job search, personal & employment branding, recruiting, and HR. Mike is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Babson College. He is also a board member of the Metro-North Regional Employment Board, a board which sets workforce development policy for Boston’s Metro-North region, and an active member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Northeast Human Resources Association.