Interview Dining Etiquette

As part of the interviewing process, be prepared to be invited to a breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Remember, this is still an interview, even though you are in a social setting you need to remain composed and professional.  Interviewing outside of the traditional office setting provides the hiring manager an opportunity to observe your communication and interpersonal skills in public.  They will also have the chance to evaluate your social skills to see how you interact with other team members as well as restaurant staff.  Good manners will give you an advantage over other candidates; take some time to brush up on your table manners as well as being aware of good interview dining etiquette.  Below are tips that I share with candidates as we prepare for this important step in the process.

Before the meal:

  • Know the location of the restaurant and it’s parking beforehand; do your research.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume with you.
  • Turn your cell phone off.
  • Wait for the interviewer before sitting.
  • Make sure that you are actively listening to the conversation and not distracted by your surroundings. Be engaged in the conversation this is an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you and vice versa.
  • Browse the menu for harmless and moderately priced meals. Stay away from spaghetti, peas and expensive items (you don’t want to be that interviewee that has a meatball roll down their shirt).  Also, stay away from foods that may easily get stuck in your teeth.


During the meal:

  • Chances are that more than one person will interview you. If this is the case, wait until everyone is seated before placing your napkin in your lap.
  • Eighty percent of communication is expressed through body language. Although you may be nervous, do your best to relax.  Maintain an assured confident posture throughout the meal and, yes elbows off the table.
  • Take smaller bites so you can be ready to answer questions.
  • There are two schools of thought when it comes to alcohol and interviewing. The first is that it is important to not drink and to keep your wits about you. The other is that it could be awkward if the interviewer orders a bottle of wine and everyone at the table, other than you, has a glass. If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t have more than a glass of wine or so and be very careful to stay focused on the conversation.


After the Meal:


  • Indicate that you are finished with your meal by placing the knife and fork, on your plate. Be sure to place the napkin on the right-hand side of your table setting.
  • No doggie bags.
  • You were invited to the meal so you are not obligated to pay the bill. Be sure to thank the interviewers and if you do not already have them ask for their business cards.
  • This is no different than a traditional office interview and you should follow up with a thank you note to each of the interviewers.