By: Diana Martinez
Congratulations on making it to the next round of interviews! Let’s go down the checklist: suit, portfolio, business cards, resumes, dining etiquette…wait, what? That’s right; increasingly employers are holding later round interviews or pre-interview sessions over full-course sit down meals. Definitely expect this if you will be interviewing with any large Fortune 100 or company holding super-days.
What’s all the fuss?
Besides allowing you to network with prospective colleagues, it offers recruiters a rare opportunity to test your social skills, assess if you are a good match for the organization’s culture, and test how well you deal with stressful and social situations. To help you navigate the sometimes unavoidable mealtime interview, below are some tips to help you shine next time you have one.
Give Your Phone a Break
Turn off or silent your phone. No one likes interruptions. While we’re on the topic: no texting, tweeting, Facebook, or any other social media. Nothing says “I’d rather be anywhere else, but here” than spending more time with the phone than with your host. It’s rude and actually makes you appear antisocial. The focus of your attention during the meal should be your host. This is a great dating tip too!
Pre-Game and Food Selection
Have a small snack before going. If you’re starving, your attention will be on the food instead of networking and making a great impression. Select foods that are not messy and are easy to eat. Some recruiters intentionally select menus that have these danger foods to see how you will navigate this obstacle course. Avoid anything with sauces, anything that will require you use your hands to eat, can be messy, and salads! Yes, salads and foods like kale, and broccoli, can be tough to eat and can lead to awkward conversations when they get stuck in your teeth. There are times when you can’t avoid salads. In that case check out this great Table Manners 101 video on etiquette and other issues such as proper use of utensils and dealing with salads and soups.
Say No to Drinking…Alcohol!
Even if offered, politely decline any alcohol and select water, soda, or other non-alcoholic option. This is another trap! It is used to assess your judgment. And no one likes dining with a drunk, not to mention the smell of it during a professional event!
Mind Your Manners
One can devote an entire series of articles on just this topic. Here are the basics:
- If you have more than one fork, begin from the outside and work your way in
- BMW: Remember this acronym and you’ll never mix up your water, salad, or bread with your neighbor’s. Starting from your left is Bread and salad, in the center is your Meal plate, and to your right is your Water glass. This graphic is also helpful to remember.
- If anything falls on the floor (napkin, utensils, etc.) it stays on the floor. It is acceptable to ask the wait staff for another one
- Never talk with your mouth full
- No slurping or blowing on your soup
- Cut food into small bite sizes and bring them to your mouth
- When you do speak and/or need to put down your utensils, never put them on your napkin or table — instead place them on your plate
- Keep your elbows off the table
- Leave some food on your plate at the end of your meal and never request a “doggy bag” to take home – no matter how much food is leftover or how delicious the meal is!
Learn to Make Small Talk
Get this down and you’ll have a strong advantage. We all have stories where we just looked at another person across the table and smiled in awkward silence. Here’s how to avoid that: do your homework. Research the company, industry, and current events in news and other areas. This will allow you to discuss an array of topics. Unless you are interviewing for a position to be a lobbyist, stay clear of religion, politics, or anything that can be turned into a debate. Bonus tip: People love talking about themselves. So, you can never go wrong with asking someone what they do at their organization, how they got where they are, and why they work at that company.
At the conclusion of any interview, you should ask for a business card and follow up within 48 hours with a thank you letter or e-mail. This is no different. Your host went through a lot of trouble; the least you could do is thank them! You would be surprised how many people forget to do it and this is the reason why they don’t get called back for a follow-up interview.
Those Who Invite Pay…To a Point
The company will pay for the meal. It is expected. So, when the bill arrives, no one is expecting you to offer to pay nor is acceptable to offer to split the bill or leave the tip. That said, this doesn’t mean you order the most expensive menu item. Follow your host’s lead. If your host doesn’t make a suggestion or asks you to order first (another clever pitfall), you can never go wrong by ordering meals that fall between the cheapest and most expensive. Bonus Tip: Since the restaurant’s name will be provided to you ahead of time, look it up online and review their menu and price list. Plan what you want to eat and have a back-up in case the item is not available.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The great thing about a mock interview is you can rehearse interviewing and make mistakes in a safe environment. The same holds true for dining. One fantastic way is by taking advantage of opportunities to combine all your interview skills with small talk and dining. In November, The Wasserman Center will be holding its signature event: Dining for Success. If you’re serious about nailing that next job, attend this event. You can be sure your competition will!
Here’s more information about the event:
Thursday, November 6, 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. The Smith, 55 Third Avenue, between 10th and 11th
IN-PERSON REGISTRATION AND REFUNDABLE CASH DEPOSIT REQUIRED! Dateline to register is Thursday, October 30th!
Enjoy a great three-course meal with top employers and the Wasserman Center at the Smith! Mastering interviewing skills is hard enough, but what about when your interview is over a meal? Don’t let your dining etiquette stand in the way of getting the job! Join NYU Recruiters from Ernst & Young, PwC, AOL, Peace Corps and more to practice these skills over a three-course meal!