Etiquette Tips for Dining with a Potential Employer

By Valerie Kielmovitch

dining“Take your elbows off the table!” “Don’t slouch!” “Stop playing with your food!”

These phrases are typically heard around the dinner tables of many households.  Children may listen to these and other rules but do not always follow them.  However, when it comes to the job/intern search, these etiquette rules are key to succeeding at a meal with a future employer.   A meal with an employer may occur at a conference or during an interview.  It is very important to follow standard etiquette during the meal.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • The meal is typically part of the interview, so stay on your ‘A game’ as far as listening to questions fully and giving thoughtful answers.
  • In most cases, the employer will pay for your meal, so this isn’t the time to order steak and lobster.  Be somewhat conservative in your meal choice, if there is an option, or try to emulate what the employer is having.  At the same time, do not assume the employer will be paying for the meal; still offer to contribute to the check.
  • In choosing a meal, be careful that it is something easy to eat in which you will not get messy and can still actively engage in conversation.  This may not be the best time to eat ribs or peel shrimp.
  • It is recommended that you do not consume alcohol in order to be alert throughout the meal.
  • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
  • Try not to wave your utensils around, if using your hands when talking.
  • Be conscious of how utensils are set up on the table.  Always use them going from the outside in towards your plate.
  • Place your napkin on your lap upon sitting down to the meal.  If you get up from the table, place the napkin on the chair.
  • If asked for the salt, still pass both the salt and pepper together.
  • When eating soup, move the spoon away from you in the bowl and do not slurp.  When finished with the soup, place the spoon on the saucer on which the soup bowl was brought.
  • If you are cutting meat, cut one piece at a time and place your knife on your plate when eating.
  • When you are finished with your meal, place your utensils horizontally across the plate at the 9 and 3 o’clock position to indicate you are finished.
  • Be very polite to the wait staff.

Following these simple tips will ensure you have a great meal and a stellar interview.

Valerie Kielmovitch has been working as a Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University since 2010.  She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and Master of Education specializing in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of South Carolina.  Valerie has a diverse background in the field of higher education from residence life to career services.

Additional information on informal and formal place settings is provided below.

Informal Place Setting

Informal Place Setting

Formal Place Setting

Formal Place Setting

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