Eating Through the Interview | Meredith Sweetpea | Business Etiquette


interview-lunchGood heavens! Miss Meredith Sweetpea has had the unfortunate circumstance of noticing a number of job interviews taking place over lunch. Unfortunate in that she witnessed the most boorish of behaviors!

A job interview held over lunch is not the time to be casual. Your dining habits and your professional skills are being analyzed to see if you are a good fit AND a good representative of the organization. Manners do count.

In one circumstance, Miss Meredith witnessed a gentleman tipping his chair back onto its back legs, picking his teeth with his fingers, and eating with his elbows on the table. After finishing, he stacked his dishes and shoved them to the side.

In another, she saw a gentleman stuffing an entire piece of food into his mouth, when it clearly should have been cut into smaller pieces. Not only did he stuff it with his fork, he then used his fingers to shove the entire piece inside his already-overstuffed maw when it became clear that the fork would not do the trick. And then he tried to talk! My word, what a sight!

In both circumstances, I wonder if the candidate got the job.

Here are some quick rules to eating during a job interview:

How to Ace a Job Interview Lunch

1. Follow what the leader is doing.

If you don’t know what to do, follow what the leader is doing. See what silverware he uses for each course and follow suit, and order what she’s ordering, or something similar. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu or you’ll be though of as taking a free ride. The exception is if you witness the leader demonstrating bad manners. Do not copy those, but rather, be subtle in your own good manners.

2. Choose simple foods

Think about the bite count in your foods. After all, you’ll be spending a good amount of time talking. A smaller, easy-to-eat meal will serve you best. Don’t order items that are messy–like spaghetti, a drippy hamburger, or a plate of ribs. And don’t order alcohol unless the host insists. Even then, drink only half the glass. Don’t complain about your food or describe any medical requirements or outcomes from certain foods.

3. Eat neatly

Don’t slurp your soup or chew with your mouth open, for heaven’s sake. And don’t talk with your mouth full. If the host asks a question at an inopportune time, simply raise one finger in a “wait a moment” gesture and swallow. Take a sip of water, and offer an “pardon me” when you are able to talk again. If you do make a loud sound or a social gaffe, a simple “excuse me” will suffice, as you continue your meal. No elbows on the table, please.

4. Don’t rush

There’s no need to rush through your meal in order to be free to answer questions. And there’s no need to finish everything on your plate.  If there is food left on your plate at the end of the meal, that’s fine. First and foremost, you are there for the job interview, not the meal. (You may not want to arrive hungry.) Eat small bites so that when a question arises, you will be free to answer it quickly.

5. Use your utensils correctly

Use your napkin to wipe your mouth and fingers, and lay it back onto your lap. Never place a soiled napkin on the table for others to see–especially if it shows a food stain. Eat your meal with the correct utensils, from the outside in. Dessert utensils are placed at the top of the plate. If in doubt, watch your host or hostess. Don’t gesture with your utensils. There’s nothing more gauche than waving your fork around like a baton when you’re trying to make a point. And don’t lick your utensils.

6. Treat the wait staff well

One thing employers notice is how you treat the wait staff. Be sure to say please and thank you when addressing the restaurant staff. Politeness counts!

7. No electronics

Even though this is not an eating habit it is important that all electronic devices be turned off and stowed away. You should never place a telephone onto the table, or have it ringing in your pocket during the interview meal. And don’t answer a call or check messages during the interview. Unless it’s a dire emergency, for which you have pre-apologized for expecting a call, you should not display any type of electronic device.

 

 

 

 

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