You submitted your resume, you landed the interview, and surprise; they ask you to dinner. On top of the hundred questions already running through your head, now you have to research proper dinner interview etiquette…
Dinner interviews are becoming more common in the business world for client facing roles. It is a great way for employers to take a potential hire out of the practice lane and see how you compose yourself in this setting which is a mix of social and professional. Typically, interviewers are interested to see your social skills in action and get a feel for how you will be presenting yourself in front of their clients.
Don’t freak out, you’ll do great! Scroll on for our tips that will help you present your best-self during a dinner interview.
Dinner interview etiquette starts before you even walk in the door. We’ve said this before for other business events, and here we’ll say it again: make sure that you turn your phone off or put it on vibrate. If you take a call in the middle of your interview, you probably won’t receive one after!
While you aren’t walking into a boardroom, that doesn’t mean your Saturday night outfit is appropriate. You still want to wear clothing that demonstrates your seriousness and professionalism, and will leave a positive first impression.
The employer will pay for the meal; be respectful and don’t take advantage. Don’t sort the menu by price and pick the most expensive meal that sounds appetizing. As you browse the menu, ask the interviewer what they recommend. That way you get a feel for what price range is appropriate.
It’s critical to steer clear of sloppy foods that could lead to a messy situation. You don’t want to be sitting there slurping soup or fumbling with spaghetti as it continuously slips off your fork. Stick with foods that you can eat with a fork and knife and take small bites.
Being polite is one of the most important parts of dinner interview etiquette. Of course you’re going to be polite to the people interviewing you; be aware of how you come across to the host and wait staff. When you’re nervous and focused on securing a job, it’s natural that you won’t be thinking about these ‘fringe’ participants on the interview - that’s exactly why we’re pointing it out. No one wants to hire someone that is rude and may give the company a bad name.
Let the interviewer take the lead on ordering - they’ll either order first (which also gives you an idea of appropriate price range) or ask you to order. This allows them to be in control of the interview process.
During the meal
It is important to remember that body language is just vital as the words that are coming out of your mouth. Like with any interview, try not to come across as nervous, even if you are. Take small bites of food so that you aren’t caught having to awkwardly finish chewing before answering a critical question.
Use your napkin and silverware appropriately. You don’t want them to see you eat like a barbarian or watch you make a mess of your outfit. Remember - these dinner interviews demonstrate how you will represent yourself in front of clients.
There is most likely more than one person from the employer’s company at this interview, so make sure that you acknowledge them. Give each person equal attention and eye contact. This can be difficult if you end up at a square table with three people, but you must resist the ease of only talking to the person across from you.
It feels uncomfortable for some, but small talk is important during an interview. It’s a great way for employers to see if you’re a good fit for their culture and team which is an important part of the hiring decision. Likewise, it affords you the opportunity to get to know what interests your potential next boss and whether or not they’re someone you’d like to work with, and work for.
Remember that an interview goes both ways. You should be interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Have a few questions ready to ask them about the company goals, opportunities for growth, and their tenure.
5 Dinner Interview Etiquette Quick Tips:
- Don’t talk with your mouth full
- Stay away from finger foods, spaghetti, and soups (no slurping!)
- Take smaller-than-normal bites so you can easily respond to questions in between
- Do not order alcohol or take a smoke break
- Enjoy the meal and conversation!