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Why a Dinner Interview Can Make or Break You And What to do to Succeed

Have you ever been invited to a breakfast, lunch or dinner interview? It’s easy to confuse the opportunity to relax with a glass of wine and a sumptuous dinner with a genuine job interview. If you are invited for a meal don’t assume that because he or she is going to spring for the food that the job is yours. In reality, the interview has just begun!

How many job candidates do you think fail the dinner interview test because of poor business etiquette? The social graces we’re talking about are those you use every day in typical business settings such as job interviews and meals that are also job interviews in disguise. And although good etiquette won’t necessarily get you the job, bad etiquette could cost you the job.

Before the meal

Do you know how you look when you eat? Most people have no idea. Before you take another bite, look in the mirror and watch yourself eat! You may be surprised or even shocked at what you see. Do you chew with your mouth open or do you chew loudly? Do you have food around the corners of your mouth do you sport a “milk mustache?” Do you tend to drop crumbs on your shirt or blouse or splatter your tie? Do you hold your flatware like a shovel? Dining etiquette, when handled properly can put you at a distinct advantage. Consider the following tips before you participate in an interview during a meal.
Interviewing Secrets Decide what you are going to wear. The easiest part of good etiquette is paying attention to your appearance. It counts for more than you may realize. Always dress conservatively. What does appearance have to do with dinner interviews? Everything! What you choose to wear to the interview is a direct reflection on how much respect you have for the interviewer and your level of maturity.
Interviewing Secrets Find out where you are meeting and be on time. Sometimes a meal interview is held on company property in the employee cafeteria.
Interviewing Secrets Turn off your cell phone or pager just as you would before an in-office interview. If you take calls during the meal, you can kiss the job offer goodbye.
Interviewing Secrets Rehearse in your mind dining etiquette techniques. Get ready to concentrate on the interview as you apply what you know to make a favorable impression. However, don’t let your concern over table manners make you so nervous that you forget why you are there.
Interviewing Secrets Before the meal arrives, use this time to converse with the interviewer. Gather information by carefully listening to what is being said. Use that information to sell your strengths when you are questioned. For example: If the interviewer talks about the job duties, expectations and the type of individual he is looking for, you have valuable information that you can use to your advantage. The more you know the easier it will be for you to explain how what you have to offer matches the needs of the prospective employer.

During the meal

During the dinner interview, focus on good manners and etiquette power. Present yourself with confidence and the ability to outclass your competition without being aggressive. It’s important to polish your social skills before interviews, especially as you prepare for a meal. If you are used to informal situations where table manners are not required and dress is super casual, you will need to change your mindset for this event. The following tips for successful dining may seem insignificant to you, but to the individual interviewing you, what takes place there can definitely be a deal breaker.
Interviewing Secrets Mind your manners in interacting with the wait staff. The words “Please” and “Thank you” are never out of vogue. You can bet that the interviewer will be watching you.
Interviewing Secrets Stay away from alcohol or sip your drink if your host insists you have a drink. Downing beers, wine or mixed drinks is totally inappropriate. Have you feel pressure to order a drink, never have more than one. Alcohol does funny things to people and makes people do funny things. This is not a social event; it’s a job interview!
Interviewing Secrets Make it easy on yourself and avoid spaghetti, soup and other difficult to eat foods such as sandwiches, shellfish or pizza. Order something simple and light and never order the most expensive entrée on the menu. Let your host lead if possible. Often the host will mention several items that are especially good and tell you what he plans to order for himself. Listen for clues like this and avoid embarrassment. Don’t be overly indecisive in selecting an entrée. Make a decision and go with it to avoid giving the impression that decisions are difficult for you to make.
Interviewing Secrets Know the basics of table setup. Food that is not on your main plate is on your left; beverages are on your right. Eating your host’s roll or drinking his or her water will make you look like an idiot.
Interviewing Secrets Don’t get too comfortable with the interviewer. Just because the interview is taking place in a restaurant environment, doesn’t mean that you can get too comfortable with off color remarks or by getting to “chummy” with the interviewer. Doing so with a stranger can be a turnoff.
Interviewing Secrets Take small bites so that you can quickly finish chewing before you answer a question; never talk with food in your mouth.
Interviewing Secrets Only reach for items that are in front of you; ask to have items passed that are outside of your reach.
Interviewing Secrets Don’t place used flatware on the table. Doing so is poor etiquette as well as unsanitary. Leave flatware in the 4:20 position when finished, knife above the fork with the blade facing you.
Interviewing Secrets Don’t start eating until everyone’s meal has been served.
Interviewing Secrets Never complain about the food or send it back. You are there for the interview, not for the food.
Interviewing Secrets Don’t smoke or excuse yourself to smoke. If offered a cigar or cigarette by your host, politely decline. Many employers are biased against smokers.
Interviewing Secrets Don’t ask for a doggy bag. Try to eat what you ordered. Wasting food, especially during a job interview leaves a bad impression.
Interviewing Secrets Women should never re-apply lipstick at the table after a meal.
Interviewing Secrets Remember that the purpose of the meal interview is to get to know you. Eating should always be secondary to conversation.

After the meal

Interviewing Secrets Don’t offer to pay the bill. The interviewer invited you so he or she will pay for the meal. Even if the bill is placed in front of you, don’t pay the bill. Never offer to share the cost of the meal. You are the guest.
Interviewing Secrets If there is any chance that you have food stuck between your front teeth, excuse yourself and go to the restroom and check a mirror. Carrying a toothbrush and/or dental floss is not a bad idea.
Interviewing Secrets Whether or not you are interested in the position, follow up with a “thank you” letter. It can be in the form of an e-mail and should be sent immediately after the interview. Doing so shows a sense of responsibility and it gives you another opportunity to reinforce several of your accomplishments. And if you are interested in the job, tell them in your letter. In situations where two candidates are equal in every respect, a “thank you” letter can be a tiebreaker.

In conclusion, like it or not, some job interviews are conducted over breakfast, lunch or dinner to determine how you conduct yourself in a setting other than an office environment. Companies have their clients, vendors, and other employees to consider when hiring new people. A candidate, who makes a poor impression because he or she doesn’t know how to properly hold a fork when cutting meat, could be an embarrassment in front of a client or customer. And as you enter the dining room, do so as if you already work for them. That means your confidence in who you are and what you have to offer is unmistakable

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