Interviews during a meal

Tips for successful mealtime interviews.

Michigan State University Career Services Network indicates that some companies and organizations utilize second interviews as a part of their selection process. It is common for second interviews to include a meal either within a company’s dining area or at a restaurant. Either way, the goal is to assess your social skills and you are always being observed – even during the meal.

This is an opportunity for you to make a positive impression on your potential supervisor and co-workers by demonstrating appropriate manners and etiquette.

Here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension on the do’s and don’ts of interviewing while eating a meal, to help make your experience successful:

A dozen do’s

  • Dress in appropriate interview attire.
  • Bring a binder or portfolio that you can carry your resume, references and questions in for quick retrieval.
  • Arrive a few minutes early.
  • Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table.
  • Put your napkin in your lap once everyone has been seated.
  • Maintain eye contact, despite the distraction of food.
  • Consider water or iced tea as a beverage. Keep it simple.
  • Maintain a positive attitude with anyone that has joined you, including the servers. Being polite and positive speaks to your character.
  • Make your meal selection quickly and order something that is easy to eat - not too messy.
  • Eat something. Do your best to at least eat half of your meal.
  • Eat your dinner roll by breaking off one small piece at a time.
  • If something is a little wrong with your order, ignore it, this meal is not about the cuisine.

A dozen don’ts

  • Drink your beverage through a straw or straight from a bottle.
  • Do not sop up sauce, gravy, etc., with your bread.
  • Don’t eat too fast as if you were in a rush, but also do not eat too slowly.
  • Do not chew with your mouth open; nor talk with your mouth full of food.
  • Do not ask for a doggie-bag.
  • Don’t interrogate or ask too many questions of the server. Keep this meal simple.
  • Don’t put your elbows on the table.
  • Do not order neither the most expensive; nor the cheapest item on the menu.
  • Avoid order anything that is oversized, smelly or crunchy - order a dish that you can easily and gracefully eat with a knife and fork. Avoid messy or sloppy foods like spaghetti, spare-ribs, fried chicken, tacos, lobster and big sandwiches.
  • Do not lay your used silverware on the tablecloth or table. Use the edge of your plate(s).
  • Do not toss your napkin on the table. Fold it loosely and lay it on the table next to your plate when finished.
  • Don’t forget to mention the meal in your thank-you note.

For resources related to interviewing, check out the careers link of Michigan 4-H Youth Development. To explore teaching volunteers and 4-H members about manners and etiquette, check out the University of Florida’s curriculum.

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