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Avoid Dining Dilemmas

Today's blog is written by ECS's new advisor, Dean Pidcock.

Are you preparing for an on-site interview? Congratulations on making it this far in the interview process! Like most students, you're probably spending time preparing questions to ask and practicing your answers to interview questions. If so, you should be well prepared for the interview - but are you prepared to present a professional image in a restaurant? On-site interviews often include at least one meal with potential co-workers and managers. Believe it or not, your behavior during a meal could be a deciding factor in getting the job - or not.

One of the most common mistakes people make when dining with a potential employer is ordering the wrong item from the menu. This is not the time to order crab legs, an overstuffed sandwich, or pasta with extra sauce dripping off the plate! Instead, order a menu item that is easy to eat with minimal mess. When eating your food, take small bites - don't load your fork. This allows you to chew and swallow your food more easily, which in turn allows for you to participate in the conversation during the meal.

If you've ever been uneasy about which fork, spoon or knife you are supposed to use, here's an easy rule to remember: start with the outer silverware and work your way in toward the plate. For example, you will find two forks to the left side of your plate. The fork on the outside (or furthest from the plate) is your salad fork, while the fork on the inside (or closest to the plate) is your dinner fork. On a crowded table, people sometimes are confused about which bread plate is theirs - but you won't be if you remember that yours is the one on the left. When in doubt, pause to observe what your host is doing.

When the server comes by to take drink orders, there's one easy rule to remember: under no circumstance should you order an alcoholic beverage. Even if the recruiter offers you an alcoholic drink or they themselves are drinking, you should politely decline. The on-site interview is not the appropriate time to consume alcoholic beverages. You don't want to be too relaxed in this setting! (Besides - are you sure this isn't a test to see if you might drink on the job?)

During the meal, you'll engage in small talk with your dining companions. The recruiters are interested in learning more about you that isn't apparent from a resume. When chatting informally like this, avoid controversial topics like politics and religion. You don't want to mention potentially divisive items which could lead to arguments or awkward moments! Instead, limit your conversation to non-controversial topics (leisure interests, books, sports you enjoy playing/watching, and so forth). Better yet, take advantage of this golden opportunity to ask your potential co-workers about their jobs, their experiences with the employer, what it's like to live in that community, and so forth.

Eating a meal with a potential employer doesn't have to be intimidating. By following a few simple guidelines, it will be an enjoyable experience for both you and the employer!

"Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup."
-Bennett Cerf

Authored by Dean Pidcock.