The Basics of Interviewing Over A Meal

Shaun Enders

Many times interviews are conducted over a meal.  Sometimes it is a mere circumstance and easier for the interviewer to meet you at a restaurant.  Another approach is that a decision maker wants to impress a candidate at the end of the interviewing process.  One example would be that an interviewing process may take many weeks; going to lunch/dinner is a way to let the candidate know that the process is coming to the offer stage.  Another example may be that a VP might want to actually extend an offer to a candidate and feels that a meal might make it more personable.  It should be obvious that basic table manners can “make or break” a final decision.

The following are basics for interviews that take place during a meal.

  1. I suggest that you do not drink alcohol.  It is imperative that you remain at your best and mentally sharp at all times.  Alcohol can create a level of comfort and in a professional situation; comfort might not be a good idea.
  2. If you smoke, try to smoke way before your meal.  With the new smoking laws, many states now prohibit smoking.  If at all possible, try not to interrupt your meal to have a smoke during or immediately following your meal.
  3. Select meals that are “light” in nature.  They should be easy to eat so you can focus on your conversation.
  4. If wine is suggested by your host, always allow the interviewer to make the selection.  If you are asked to make the selection, make a selection that is moderately priced.  I suggest that you have one glass of wine if you are put in this situation.
  5. When ordering, make a meal selection that is moderately priced.
  6. When seated, place your napkin on your lap.  Try not to leave the table unless you need to.
  7. Sip your beverages, not gulp.
  8. As your parents always told you, “Don’t talk with your mouth open.”
  9. Do not chew on ice.  When people are nervous, they sometimes do this.
  10. Wipe your mouth with a napkin often to insure a clean face.

When interviewing over a meal, your focus needs to be on your interview.  Even if it is the final interview of the interviewing process, you still need to be selling yourself.  It is your job to sell yourself until your offer has been extended and accepted.  Just to keep it simple – MIND YOUR MANNERS!

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