Today I received another question concerning what to do when interviews take place at an eating establishment.
Question: Thanks for posting about mealtime interview etiquette. It was helpful because I never really know exactly what to do, and I guess that’s where my question comes in. I still don’t feel comfortable talking and eating. Do you have any advice?
Answer: I totally get it, and my best answer is: Don’t. Just as I continue to remind my children not to talk with their mouths full of food (and it seems as if I have to remind them of this at every single meal), you want to make sure you don’t have any remnants in your mouth when you’re answering questions.
However, let’s make this practical. You are not expected to place your fork and knife on your plate and stop eating for the entire interview. Quite frankly, that will make others at the table feel awkward. The good news is that you can balance eating and answering questions with some of the tips listed below:
Remember Mom’s Manners: You know not to talk and chew at the same time. Take small bites so you don’t get caught with a big bite of food in your mouth just as the interviewer asks a question. Also, keep your elbows off the table and sit up straight. Thanks, Mom.
Turn Off Your Phone at the Table: The person you are dining with takes priority.
Preview the Menu Ahead of Time: Be familiar with the offerings before you reach the restaurant so you don’t have to spend time with your head buried in the menu. Don’t select the most expensive item on the menu—or the messiest. Crab claws or pasta in marinara sauce are probably not good bets.
Do Enjoy Your Food When It Arrives: Most interviewers know to talk with you about the job between the time you place your order and the food arrives. Once the food is delivered to your table, you can expect a pause in the interview as people assess their plates and begin eating. Enjoy this time of chit-chat about the food and other topics. Do most of your eating during this time so you can be ready for any final questions.
Do Make Eye Contact with the Interviewer during the Meal: It’s okay to take small bites during the interview, but make sure your focus is on the speaker, not the salmon.
Don’t Offer to Pay: Please don’t do this. The expectation is that the interviewer or someone from the organization will cover the check. Be sure to thank them for the meal and the meeting as you adjourn.
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