Employers are more frequently holding interviews over a meal or coffee, and the added factor of food and drink can make your interview day seem more daunting. However, if you take the time to prepare, you’ll find that the interview can be tackled – maybe even enjoyed! The best way to practice is by attending Dining For Success. This will give you real experience dining with employers while keeping up a conversation and keeping track of all those forks. Before any dining interview, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re comfortable and prepared when you take your table.
1. Review the Menu
In the age of Yelp, we know that you never pick up coffee without studying the shop’s reviews and tips, and this should be no different. Especially if you have special dietary restrictions, taking time to review the menu a day or two in advance will allow you to spend more time face to face with the employer during the interview. If you have very specific dietary needs, call the restaurant ahead of time to ask questions about the dishes you are considering. You always want to be sure to choose a mid-priced entrée, and be prepared with an appetizer or dessert choice you’d enjoy if the employer decides to order these courses. This is also a chance to see the atmosphere of the restaurant and decide whether or not you also need to spend time studying the navigation of formal place settings.
2. Choose your Wardrobe
Interviews over food or drinks often last longer than a traditional interview, so you want to keep this in mind when choosing what to wear. As always, you want to consider the dress code of the company and then dress one step above that. Avoid wearing clothes that will get in the way while you are eating – leave long flowing sleeves in the closet for this one. Choose an outfit that will allow you to sit comfortably and move your arms to eat and to pass items to your tablemates. If you have long hair, style it in a way so that it stays out of your face (and your soup).
3. Read the News
You can expect more small talk at a dining interview than you would during a traditional interview. The employer wants to get to know you and understand if you will fit in with the culture and environment of the company. To be sure you can participate in the conversation, review the company news, industry news, and current events before the interview. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but making sure you can contribute a little to the topic on industry trends and to the topic on the latest big news story will make you more at ease.
4. Plan for Comfort
Even though you are sitting down to eat with the employer, the focus is not on the food. If you tend to eat a lot, consider having a small snack before you go so that you’re not ravenous and distracted from the conversation. Likewise, if you get very thirsty, have a tall glass of water before the meal so you don’t miss out on key points while you’re flagging down the waiter for your third refill. Definitely eat and enjoy your food, but don’t let your hunger be a distraction from the true task at hand: landing that job.
Want more practice, come to one of our upcoming industry-focused Dining for Success dinners. In-person registration at NYU Wasserman required. More details available via NYU CareerNet.