Interview Dining Etiquette

A prospective employer might invite you to interview over lunch or dinner in order to evaluate your social skills. Your table manners in a business dining setting can reveal a lot about your level of professionalism and may play a critical role in making a favorable—or unfavorable—impression on the interviewer.

Arrival

If you are meeting the interviewer at the restaurant, be sure to arrive 10–15 minutes early. Call ahead if an emergency prevents you from being on time. 

Once you are directed to your table, sit across from the interviewer (unless you are asked to do otherwise) to facilitate conversation. Turn off your phone or at least turn off your ringer to avoid interruptions. If you can do so sincerely, make a complimentary comment about the restaurant and surroundings. 

The first five minutes or so of an interview lunch or dinner are usually filled with casual conversation intended to make you feel comfortable. If other individuals from the company are also joining you for the meal, there will be a round of introductions as well.

During the Meal

When it’s time to order your food, choose an inexpensive or moderately-priced entrée, avoiding food that is either messy or requires you to eat with your hands (including spaghetti, ribs, and overstuffed sandwiches).  It's also best to avoid alcoholic beverages, especially at lunch, even if the interviewer is having alcohol. If you choose to have a drink, don't order more than one. Always be polite to your server, no matter what the service is like.

While waiting for your food, place your napkin on your lap and keep your elbows off the table.  With regard to the place setting, remember that solids are on your left (bread plate) and liquids are on your right (glasses and coffee cups).

When the food arrives, wait until everyone at the table is served before picking up your fork. Don’t chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full!  After you've finished eating, put your utensils down next to each other on your plate and your napkin on the table next to your plate (never on your plate).

After the Meal

Let the prospective employer pick up the tab. The person who invited you will expect to pay both the bill and the tip. 

Remember to thank your interviewer and follow up within 24 hours of the meal with a thank-you note or email message, reiterating your interest in the job.

 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032