Meal Interview Do's and Don'ts
You may find yourself attending a breakfast, lunch, or dinner interview during your company-site visit. This is usually a good sign that you are under strong consideration. Following are some of the basic do's and don'ts:
- Wait for your host to direct the seating arrangement
- Place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated
- Remember everything your Mom and Dad taught you about table manners, then put them to good use
- Order lightly and simply; you are there to interview—eating is only the sideline distraction
- Know what you are ordering; avoid exotic items
- Chew and swallow before you speak; no airborne food particles, please
- Be polite to waiters and waitresses, but not chatty
- Keep your elbows off the table (yes, your mother was right about this one)
- Thank your host for the meal
- Don't bring your briefcase or messenger bag, if you have one; your writing portfolio is plenty
- Don't open your menu until your host has done so first
- Don't become lax in your presentation style; it is still an interview
- Don't drink alcohol, even if your host offers or imbibes
- Don't be indecisive in ordering—make a decision and stick with it
- Don't begin eating until everyone is served
- Don't attempt to pay the bill or split the cost; it will be covered by your host
- Don't smoke, even if your host does
- Don't criticize the meal or the restaurant
- Don't request a takeout box
Smoking or Non?
A few states still allow smoking in restaurants. If you are at a restaurant where it is allowed, your host may turn to you and ask, "Which do you prefer?" Whether you smoke or not, always respond, "It's up to you." And if you do smoke, do not smoke, even if your interviewer smokes.
Smokers beware. Smoking is at an all-time low on the acceptance scale. You are not a protected minority—and you are definitely in the minority. Even the smell of smoke on your clothes can count against you. If you smoke, do not smoke the day of the interview. In fact, do not smoke after your last shower prior to the interview. And wear fresh clothes that are free of the tobacco smell. Tough rules? Possibly. But there are enough sensitive noses and prejudiced minds out there that you should do your very best to avoid any and all potential negatives. And smoking is one area that most in modern society look down upon.
If you do smoke, there will likely be an advantage to kicking the habit before you begin work—ideally, before you begin interviewing, given the potential negative impact it can have on the job search process. Even in states where tobacco isn't banned at work many companies force employees to smoke either in a designated smoking room or outside the building (which can be especially rough in northern climates). The amount of time necessary for even the average pack-a-day smoker to get their nicotine fix can amount to over 10 percent lost productivity. This fact is not easily ignored by the average manager. And it may eventually work against you, either in your job search or in your professional career.
If you have been looking for an incentive to quit, this may be your opportunity.
Ten Things to Never Order at a Meal Interview
It's bad form to cut it, worse form to twirl the huge ball and worst form to slurp up the one that tried to get away…
Ever get hot pizza stuck to the roof of your mouth? Or pulled the toppings off in a clump into your lap?
- French onion soup (see The French Onion Soup Technique)
This is the one soup that should come with a knife and a fork…
- Most expensive item on the menu
You don't want to be an asterisk on an expense report…
- Least expensive item on the menu
That includes anything on the kids menu, even if you still love chicken fingers…
- Any fish with the head or bones still attached
"Hey waiter, I think the chef forgot to skin and clean this fish!"
- Any food that requires you to lick your fingers when you are finished
"Those were the best ribs I've ever eaten…"
- Any food that requires a bib
Even if the little lobster bib does color coordinate with your suit…
- Any food in a foreign language unless you are 100% sure of the pronunciation
"Hey there, garcon, I'll have one of that there fois grass thingees or however you say that…"
- Any food you are not entirely sure how to eat
Artichokes come to mind…