Interviews on the Road – Etiquette at Meals

Here are some tips that may help when on the interview trail:

Ordering Your Meal

– this is not a time to splurge, so don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu.

– let your host order first.

– order food that is easy to eat and is not naturally messy (burgers, spaghetti, ribs, etc.).  Salads, chicken breasts, fish, and vegetarian dishes are safe bets.

Ordering Your Drink

– even though everyone else at the table may choose something alcoholic, don’t feel you need to as well.  It’s perfectly okay to order sparkling water, a soft drink, or a non-alcoholic beer.  If you do decide to imbibe, limit it to one drink, even if you’re all out at a pub after a long day of interviews.

At the Table

– wait until everyone is seated before touching anything on the table.

– put your napkin on your lap when everyone is seated.

– when leaving the table during the meal place the napkin on your chair.

– at the end of the meal place it loosely to the left of your plate. Don’t refold it.

– do not begin eating until everyone is served, except if you are asked to begin by the others.

Etiquette while Eating

– use the correct dishes and utensils (see the diagrams below).

– your bread is to your left, and your drinks are to your right.  (A good way to remember this is to make a lowercase letter “b” with your left hand, and a “d” with your right.)

– taste your food before adding seasoning (this is a courtesy to the chef).

– when eating bread, break the bread into one piece at a time and butter as you go. It should be small enough to fit in your mouth. Do not butter the entire roll.

– the same concept applies if you’re eating food that requires a knife; cut and eat your food one piece at a time.

– use silverware going from the outside in and use the utensils at the top of your plate last.

– once you use a utensil it should not touch the table again.

– while eating, keep your knife across the top of your plate. Once you are finished eating, place the knife and fork across your plate as if they are pointing to the numbers 10 and 4 on a clock face.

– if you’re not finished eating and need to leave the table, put your knife and fork in the shape of an “A” on your plate (this alerts the wait staff that you are not yet finished).

At the Pub

Often recruiters will invite the day’s interviewees out to a pub or bar.  Remember that you are still being evaluated even in this informal setting.  So, a few tips that may help:

– drink beer from a glass.

– don’t be picky about your wine once it’s served; it’s not cool to send it back.

– don’t sip through one of those little stirrers when drinking a mixed drink.

– as mentioned above, one drink is recommended, so if you’re still thirsty, sparkling water or soda water is a good alternative.

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