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Lunch Interviews, Dinners, and Retreats

Table Manners

It is amazing how many candidates lack basic table manners. We have seen interviewees who pick their teeth, eat with their bare hands, or put their elbows on the dining table. Some also slurp, talk with their mouths full, and munch their food loudly during interviews. If you were raised in a family in which proper table manners were not a priority, pay special attention to how you eat and behave. Do not gulp down your entrée, because eating quickly looks unattractive. When ordering, remember that foods that you can eat with a fork and knife tend to be safer than foods such as burgers and ribs. If you reach into the bread basket, go ahead and cut or break off a piece of bread, but never place the piece you took back into the basket.

During her lunch interview, Amanda took the piece of bread from the basket, buttered it, took a bite, and put the same piece back in the basket. The first interviewer immediately picked up a BlackBerry and started typing frantically. The second interviewer then excused himself as he was checking his BlackBerry, explaining he had an urgent client e-mail. What he was actually reading was an e-mail from the first interviewer, with the subject line “Bread,” and the question “Did she just do that?” in the body of the text.

Furthermore, never criticize your interviewers’ choice of a restaurant: A lunch interview is not about enjoying the cuisine. There is absolutely no room for grimacing, complaining, or sighing about the food or restaurant. Most of the time, you will be able to find a few vegetarian, kosher, or non-ethnic entrees on any restaurant menu. The only thing you will accomplish by telling your interviewers you dislike their choice of a restaurant is make them feel bad. And their negative feelings, whether intentionally or not, may later affect their impressions about your candidacy and cost you an offer. For the same reason, if you can help it, try not to order a dish that indicates a subtle critique of the restaurant selection. Although ordering chicken in a seafood restaurant will not cost you an offer, it may suggest to your interviewers that you disapprove of their choice.

Mike, an Alabama native, found himself at a lunch interview that specialized in soul food. Apparently, his D.C. interviewers went to great lengths to find a restaurant that would make Mike feel at home. Mike actually preferred Japanese cuisine, as soul food was definitely not a novelty for him. But he bit his tongue and thanked the interviewers profusely for being so considerate. His positive attitude did not go unnoticed.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsLunch Interviews, Dinners, and Retreats - Act Professional, Never Let Your Guard Down, What To Order?, Table Manners, Basic Etiquette