Statistics show that one third of business is conducted over a meal. Personally, I know this to be true. For example, during the course of several post-college interviews, I was invited to dine with Vice Presidents and CEOs, usually as the last step before a job offer. I slowly but surely realized I was under the microscope at these white tablecloth events.
If you find yourself in a similar situation to discuss a job offer over a meal, follow these tips to build smart dining etiquette skills that will convey confidence and competence throughout your interview.
Once an invitation has been extended to join the interviewer for dinner, tea, lunch or breakfast, be sure to use software like MapQuest to locate the restaurant. Arriving early allows you a moment to gain your composure, check your appearance, gather your portfolio and walk in ready to do business. Avoid doing “just one more thing”. Be on time.
Classic and True: Use “Please” and “Thank You”
Politeness wins friends. Bossing people around and making demands will not. An interviewer is looking to see not only how you interact with them while dining, but also how you will end up treating the employees back at the home office. If your people skills don’t shine as you interact with the restaurant staff, how can the interviewer expect that you will show consideration and respect to their employees? Keep in mind that a consistent, polite behavior is your best behavior.
Any Time That Cell Phone Use Will Bother Others, Turn it Off
Before you walk into the restaurant, power off your cell phone. If you don’t, you stand the chance of your phone ringing, chiming or buzzing smack-dab in the middle of your interview.Eeek! Text messages, Facebook and Pinterest, for example, are best accessed on your own personal time and not during an interview or when dining with others. When you are focused on trying to make a good impression, it is not a bad idea to learn how to detach from electronic devices and focus more on human to human conversations before it becomes a habit you can’t break.
Don’t Wolf Down Your Food
Cut only enough food for the next mouthful, and take reasonably small bites at a time. You are there to interview, not feast. Also, chew with your mouth closed and swallow before you speak. You want to avoid grossing out the interviewer.
Choose Something that is Easy to Eat
If the interviewer doesn’t recommend the ribs, shellfish, spaghetti or linguini-type meals, avoid them at all costs. Stick to mid-priced items that you enjoy eating, but are not messy. Remember, you are there to talk, and messy foods can inhibit your ability to communicate confidently.
The first thank-you should come at the end of the interview. When you get home that evening, write a thank-you note on your professional looking stationery. Be sure to convey appreciation and sincerity while using good penmanship and accurate spelling. Lastly, if you have been communicating with the interviewer by email, you can send an email back thanking them for the opportunity to interview. You still will want to mail a handwritten thank you note because email can sometimes end up in a Spam folder or it can be accidently overlooked.
Every time you improve your dining etiquette skills, you solidify the effective executive image you have been working hard to create. Identify which of these etiquette areas need the most attention from you, and get started today. Your dining etiquette skills are the cornerstone of your executive image.
Tiffany Nielsen is a public speaker, author and business etiquette and children’s manners expert. She is co-author of the books, The Power of Civility and Incredible Business. Her company, Premier Etiquette, offers corporate and small business workshops, motivational keynote presentations, children’s manners programs, editorial content and private coaching.
© 2014 Tiffany Nielsen | Premier Etiquette. All Rights Reserved.