Interviewing over a Meal
When you find out your interview is going to take place over a meal, you may get indigestion before you even begin to eat. It is not enough to have to worry about impressing a potential employer with your words and avoiding any revealing body language. Now you also have to worry about using the right fork, not spilling soup on yourself, and not having food stuck between your teeth. Here are some tips that will help you survive such an interview.
Sitting Down at the Table
When you arrive at the table, wait for everyone to sit down before you do, unless of course someone signals you to sit down first. After you sit down at the table, you should place your napkin on your lap. Generally you want to wait for your host to do this first. If the napkin is a large dinner-style one, you should fold it in half. If it is a small luncheon-style napkin, you can unfold it completely.
There may be a basket of bread on the table. If it is in front of you, offer it to your dining companions before you help yourself. If it is not in front of you, wait until others have helped themselves before you ask someone to pass it to you. Do not reach in front of anyone or across the table to get it.
Place bread on your bread plate, which should be the smallest plate at your setting. Use your butter knife, or your regular knife if you do not have a butter knife, to place a piece of butter on your bread plate. Then break off a bite-sized piece of bread, apply the butter to it, and eat that piece. Do not butter an entire slice of bread or roll at once and proceed to eat it like a sandwich.
Place settings will often include a variety of utensils. Many people are confused about what to use first, second, and so forth. The rule of thumb is to start furthest away from your plate and work your way in as the meal progresses.
What to order
When the waitress arrives to take drink orders, make yours a soda or water. While an alcoholic beverage may calm you down, it may also loosen you up—too much. If your host orders a bottle of wine for the table, refusing to have some may appear rude. In that case, allow the waiter to pour some for you, but sip it slowly.
When it comes time to order your meal, choose wisely. Stay away from any messy foods. Spaghetti is out. Avoid foods that tend to get stuck in your teeth, like spinach or poppy seeds. Choose something that is moderately priced. Your prospective employer is footing the bill and you do not want to look greedy.
When the food begins to arrive, wait until everyone is served before you begin eating. When you cut up your food, use both your knife and fork to cut off one piece at a time. Do not hold your knife in your hand while you are eating and do not put a used utensil down on the table. Place your knife on your plate until you are ready to use it again.
Use your napkin to remove any crumbs from your face. Remember to dab and not wipe. When you are done eating, place your napkin on the table. It should be folded neatly, not crumpled up. Then politely wait for everyone else to finish.
Carry a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste with you to use after the meal. You should be able to find a compact model that will fit in your purse or pocket so you can go to the restroom to remove any food you fear is lodged between your teeth.
Don't Talk with Your Mouth Full
With your table manners in order, you can begin dealing with questions. The biggest question on your mind may be “How do I eat and answer questions at the same time?” With the finesse of a dentist, your interviewer may have a knack for asking you questions just as you put each forkful of food into your mouth. No matter how much you want to answer his question, remember what your mom told you—don't talk with your mouth full. It only takes a few seconds to chew and swallow, although it may seem like an eternity to you. Also remember to completely answer each question before you continue to eat.
When your host places her napkin on the table, it is a signal that the meal is over. You do not want to keep her there any longer than necessary. This may or may not mean the end of the interview. Follow the interviewer's lead. When the interview is over, do what you would do at the end of a regular interview, with the addition of thanking her for the meal.