Handling a Meal Successfully During Your Job Interview
A meal can be very important to your job search success! Most employers have busy schedules and will arrange interviews during meal times. Sometimes, an applicant may share breakfast with one group, lunch with another and still another for dinner. All the while, the applicant is expected to answer questions well while the interviewers eat. You could be critically scrutinized on your table manners and conduct in addition to your answers to the interview questions.
Employers may want to see you in a more social situation to see how you conduct yourself, particularly if the job for which you are interviewing requires a certain standard of conduct with clients and superiors. Many times, meals are the only time that certain groups of workers can find to assemble together for an interview.
Tips for Interview Dining Etiquette: Follow the lead of your host or hostess. You should wait for your interviewer to ask you to sit down before taking your seat. If he/she doesn't ask you to sit, wait for him/her to be seated, then sit. During the meal, sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs at the ankle. Crossing your legs during the meal can cause you to slouch, and looks too casual. As soon as everyone is seated, unfold your napkin and place it across your lap, folded, with the fold toward you. Do this discreetly.
If you need to leave the table, place your napkin on your chair, folded loosely. Only after the meal is over should you place your napkin on the table to the left side of your plate (never on your plate!). You should not push your chair back and cross your legs until the meal is completely finished.
What to Eat & Drink During Interviews: Here are some general tips on what to order. Let your interviewer order first and order a meal for yourself that is less expensive than his or hers. Pick a meal that is small and easy to eat. Try to steer away from sandwiches, shellfish, spaghetti, pizza or any other foods that are messy and may require a lot of handling.
You want to eat quickly so that you can focus on your interviewer and answering questions. It is a good idea to drink water, tea or juice, steering away from alcohol, even if your interviewer has ordered alcohol. Even if the food you are served is not cooked correctly or not to your liking, never criticize or state a dislike for a food that is served to you. You could be evaluated for your grace in such situations.
How to Eat During Interviews: Take small bites so that you can quickly finish chewing before speaking. Never speak with food in your mouth! You may not have much time to eat if you are being asked a lot of questions; remember that the main point of the meal is to interact and eating is secondary.
Unless you are eating a sandwich (try not to order a sandwich), you should keep your left hand in your lap and bring it only to the table when operating a fork and knife together. Never rest your arms on the table.
More Tips for your Interview Meal: Remember the purpose of the meal. While the interviewer may engage in more casual conversation during a meal, remember that this is still an interview. You will be evaluated on this meeting. Be prepared at any moment for the interviewer to ask serious questions - you will want to be as thoughtful and concise in your answers at a meal as you would sitting in front of the interviewer's desk.
Typically in an interview, you are the guest and so the meal is paid for by the company. Your host will most likely pick up the check so you won't have to deal with it. Remember to thank your host for the meal at its conclusion. A thank you note will be a nice touch as well.
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