Proper Over-Meal Interview Etiquette

If you have a job interview over a meal, chew your way to success with proper etiquette.

Interviews are already nerve-wracking enough, having to deal with your own anxiety while trying to appear calm and confident to the person interviewing you. Add a meal into the mix, and things become all the more confusing. When an interviewer schedules an interview at a restaurant over lunch or dinner, now not only do you have to worry about appearing professional and impressing the other person, but you also have to make sure you’re not chewing with your mouth open or spilling food on your shirt. What is the proper etiquette for an interview over a meal?

On Thursday, April 14, I went to “Dining For Success” put on by NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, where students could practice their interviewing skills while eating dinner. The event was held at the Torch Club, and students were seated at a table with an employing recruiter and member of the Wasserman staff and served a three-course meal. Here are the top pro-tips for your next lunch or dinner interview.

  • Start off the interview with some small talk. Since the interview is at a restaurant, the setting is more relaxed than an office. Avoid hot topics like religion and politics. Instead, try bringing up something the company has been in the news for. It’s an easy topic and shows that you’ve done your research.
  • When you’re ordering, the best thing to do is aim for something right around the average price range — not too cheap, not too expensive. On one hand, you don’t want to order something so small that it appears odd, but it also shouldn’t seem like you’re trying to get the most expensive food out of a free meal.
  • The most general rule of thumb is to think of the letters “B” and “D,” which stand for bread and drink. Your bread should always be on the left of your plate, and the drink should always be to the right.
  • If you have two spoons, the smaller, pointier spoon is for your food, whereas the larger, more hollow spoon is for soup.
  • When you have three forks, the one in the center is your dinner fork, which is the largest fork. To its left is the slightly smaller fish fork, and to its right is the smallest fork, for salad.
  • With glasses, the largest will be for your water, the second largest is for red wine and the smallest is for white wine. However, you shouldn’t be ordering a drink at an interview unless your interviewer absolutely insists.
  • Your napkin should always be placed on your lap. Don’t tuck it into your shirt; this isn’t elementary school. If you have to leave the table, place the napkin on your chair.
  • Above all, try not to be nervous and act natural! If an interviewer takes you out to eat they’re going to want to see more of your personality than would be shown in a standard interview.

A version of this article appeared in the April 18 print edition. Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]

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