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What’s Going On At The Interview Meal?

You’ve made it through to final consideration. The company you are applying to has invited you for a final interview, including lunch. What’s the lunch all about?

Clearly, the lunch isn’t about your skills for the job; those have already been established. The lunch is an opportunity to assess your personal skills and how you represent yourself, but also how you will potentially represent the company to its constituencies. Here are six guidelines to help you navigate the meal successfully:

Be on time. Your arrival is the first step in building a relationship. Arrive on time and you focus on greeting people. Arrive late and the first thing you have to do is apologize for being late.

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Engage in small talk. Be prepared ahead of time by identifying several topics you can launch. Those topics can focus on current news or sports, particular interests of the interviewer that you gleaned during earlier interviews, and specifics about the company. Bringing up topics beyond the company demonstrates that you have good conversation skills

Know table manners. One measure of your personal skills is how you handle yourself in a dining situation. Table manners are a demonstration of your confidence, and confidence is key to encouraging trust and being successful in building relationships.
Wait to be told which seat to take.
Order medium priced menu selections that are easy to eat.
Chew your food with your mouth closed.
Drink quietly. No gulping.
Be a participant in general conversation but don’t dominate it.

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Be aware of your body language. Do you sit up or do you slouch? Do you stare down at your plate the entire time or do you engage people by looking them in the eye? Avoid having your elbows on the table, especially while you are eating food. Be careful of nervous habits like drumming your fingers on the table or playing with your utensils between courses.

Be a good listener. As important as bringing up topics and engaging in conversation are, being an attentive listener matters equally to building relationships. Look at the people who are talking with you, nod every now and then and ask a question or repeat a point they are making to let them know you are really listening and interested in what they have to say.

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Show your appreciation. Offer a sincere thank you as you shake hands with the other people at the end of the meal. Then that afternoon email a thank-you note so the interviewer receives it immediately.

Happy Holidays!

If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.

Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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