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Food for Thought: Dining with Employers

Employers want to hire well-rounded individuals. You may have a great resume and impressive interview answers, lack of social skills and table manners could leave a negative impression that could ultimately cost you a job offer. Company representatives will observe you in less formal situations to see how you would represent the company in future social settings. So, be sure to show enthusiasm, maintain eye contact/good posture, and know the basic rules of dining etiquette!

Before the Meal

In addition to researching the employer, spend some time researching the restaurant to learn about location, parking, menu, etc. Pick out a few meal options on the menu that you might order. Remember- don’t go overboard with price just because someone else is paying! Narrowing down your options ahead of time will allow you to engage in better conversation with the employer.  It can also be practical if you have a dietary restriction.

During the Meal

Conversations over a meal can often extend beyond the focus of the business or interview. Avoid topics involving religion, politics, medical conditions, gossip and jokes that could be interpreted as offensive in any way. Below are some appropriate topics to initiate with employers:

  • Work experience
  • Educational background
  • Job search advice
  • Travel
  • Current events
  • Personal interests/hobbies
  • Entertainment (sports, TV, movies, books)                                          

After the Meal

The employer has invited you to the meal, and therefore, the company will pick up the tab! As the bill is being paid, inquire about the next steps in the interview process. Gathering a business card and a timeline will help you in writing your thank-you note (yes, you need to write one after every interview—meals included)! Also, sincerely thank the interviewers for their time and the meal at the conclusion of the meeting.

Check out the ECS Student Handbook for additional tips on dining with potential employers.

Review questions you could ask an employer in the CareerEngine “Document Library.”

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”
-James Beard

About the author

Kaitlin Schafer

Kaitlin Schafer is a Career Counselor at Engineering Career Services.