Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mastering "The Meal Interview"

I have heard several horror stories from fellow colleagues about their embarrassing experiences during 'meal interviews.' There are a million different ways these interviews can crash and burn-- talking with your mouth full, ordering the most expensive meal on the menu and overall poor table etiquette, just to name a few. All of these simple mistakes can easily ruin an interview by indicating a lack of professionalism and respect.

This summer I had the opportunity to experience my very first meal interview and I was determined to avoid the same mistakes my colleagues had made. In order to be prepared for the interview, I scoured the web for a guideline on acceptable and expected behavior and etiquette.

To make your next meal interview a success, here are a few great fundamental rules to guide you, thanks to Nathan Newberger at WorkTree.

1. Mind Your Manners:
  • BE POLITE. In addition to evaluating your answers, the interviewer is also paying close attention to your personality. Being courteous and respectful and minding your "please" and "thank you's" will speak volumes about your character.
  • BE AWARE. These are the basics or the building blocks of table etiquette. Keep your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed and avoid talking with your mouth full. Make sure you are aware of even the smallest actions.
  • BE PREPARED. If you are like me, and unsure about rules on proper table manners, do your research like I did to learn great advice from etiquette experts.
2. The Dish Dilemma:
  • KEEP IT QUIET. Avoid foods that are loud and noisy to eat. In an interview you want to be sure that you hear the questions that are being asked and are remaining attentive to what the interviewer is saying. You are already in a public setting, therefore do your best to avoid adding further noise and distraction.
  • FOLLOW THE LEADER. This was one of the most important pieces of advice for me. If you are unsure if a menu item is priced too high or whether or not it is appropriate to order an appetizer first, make sure you wait to follow the interviewer's lead. Base your decisions off of the price range and number of courses that are being ordered by the person in charge.
3. Consume and Converse:
  • YOU ARE IN CONTROL. This is a very common mistake that many people make during meal interviews. Do not feel so pressured to talk that you do not wind up eating at all. This can easily be interpreted as nervousness when you should be exuding confidence.
  • ASK QUESTIONS. By coming prepared with questions to ask, it shows that you have done your homework on the company and allows you to learn more about the position you are interviewing for. It is also a great opportunity to eat while the interviewer is responding.
4. Finish with a Bang:
  • DON'T OFFER TO PAY. It isn't expected of you, therefore don't do it.
  • NEVER ASK FOR A TAKE-HOME. Even if your meal was delicious and you didn't have the chance to finish it, never ask to take the leftovers home. It is inappropriate for the current situation.
  • GRACIOUS HANDSHAKE. Do not forget to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Be sure to be gracious and say that you enjoyed the meal. Follow this with a handshake and a follow up thank you letter in the morning.

With these great tips and tricks, you'll be sure to take a big bite of success out of your next meal interview!

Do you have any additional advice to add? Let us know!

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