During the job interview process many prospective candidates are invited to a job interview over a meal. It is important to recognize that many individuals have failed miserably at this task and have compromised the promise of a career opportunity and a paycheck by demonstrating poor table manners.
Tips for a successful interview dining experience:
Show up on time and at the correct location. Be sure to map out your route if going to an unfamiliar location. It is up to the host to choose the venue.
Avoid gum. Use mints, as gum chewing is seen as a sign of bad breeding in many parts of the world and becomes an issue when you do not know what to do with that sticky glob once you begin to dine.
Avoid waving, pointing, or flailing the silver. When engaged in conversation do not wield the knife and fork around as you are speaking. This creates a distraction and is unprofessional.
Avoid the use of salt or pepper prior to tasting the meal. Many individuals will salt or pepper their meal without first sampling. This sends a non-verbal message of making hasty or rash decisions and can compromise the ability to move forward in the hiring process.
You were not invited to a meal because you are hungry. Avoid ordering expensive menu items, finger foods and difficult to manage items (ribs, lobster, fried chicken, spaghetti, etc.). If a food item is difficult to manage, you spend more effort on eating the meal and less on building rapport with emphasis on the main mission; getting hired. It is not about the food; it is about the relationship building process.
Order menu items that allow you to focus on the interview. Safe items to order when on an interview lunch or dinner include; soup, a main entree’ featuring poultry, fish, meat, starch and vegetable. A salad may be cumbersome as not all leafy greens are cut into bite size pieces.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol inhibits the ability to recall important details, impairs the ability to remember names (especially in a networking setting), may cause improper conversations to emerge, and is not advisable when being considered for hire.
The purpose of the interview lunch/dinner is to determine the social savvy of the job seeker. Many times this form interview is the determining factor in hiring as it sets apart candidates for hire that are closely matched in skill and technical ability. You are an extension of the organization you represent, and table manners demonstrate your ability to be an ambassador for that potential hiring organization. Good luck!