By: JoAnn Nix, Certified Career Coach

If you think interviewing is stressful, consider the fact you may have to interview as you share a meal with people who make decisions on whether to hire you or not. One of the reasons you may be invited to lunch or dinner is to evaluate your social skills and business dining etiquette. This is particularly necessary if you have a high level of visibility in the company and frequently interact with customers and vendors. For example, a Sales Executive, Vice President, or CEO (and many other professionals) continually discuss business during meals, and your employer wants to make sure that you can handle yourself professionally in this setting. They don’t want to hire someone who has no business dining etiquette and could tarnish the company’s image.

Here are a few interviewing tips for you to follow:

  • Contact the restaurant ahead of time to know exactly what is on their menu. This is most helpful if you have special diet requirements. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself or create problems with ordering your meal. After all, you aren’t there to enjoy a meal, but to discuss the possibility of working with the company. You don’t want to be viewed as “problematic,” so know the menu selections ahead of time. Either visit the restaurant, ask them to fax you a menu, or perhaps go to their website.
  • Don’t be late! If you don’t know where the restaurant is located, find it ahead of time.
  • Order foods that are easy to deal with – avoid ordering anything that is “messy” such as ribs, whole lobsters, etc.
  • Take your cue from your host in terms of food selections and pricing.
  • It’s not smart to drink alcoholic beverages during the interview, even if others do order these beverages.
  • If you need to leave the table, place your napkin on the seat or arm of your chair.
  • Once the meal is over, place your napkin on the table next to your plate.
  • Let your host pay for the meal and the tip; after all, they invited you.
  • Remember to thank them and follow up with a thank you note the next day.