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Louise Elerding: Proper interview dining etiquette

You’ve got manners

Posted: July 8, 2010 8:35 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

When the final segment of an interview process occurs at a dining table, how do you maintain your advantage? Many decisions regarding your future with a company may be finalized in this setting.

Businesses often use these types of venues to assess social skills and your ability to represent their firm.

Being aware of some subtle and expected dining etiquette tips will give you an extra advantage.

Dine before dinner
 Eating a small amount of food before arriving at a dinner meeting to avoid feeling ravenous.

Wait for everyone else to be served, and wait for your host to lift his or her fork. Eat slowly and take small bites of food, so if you need to speak or answer, it will be easy to reply quickly.

If you get caught with a question while chewing, give a brief hand signal indicating you will answer as soon as you have swallowed.

You’d be surprised how many people are seen chewing with an open-mouth and talking.

Not a pretty sight.

Enter your place from the proper side of chair
 Enter and exit your chair from the left side.

Everyone following this queue avoids congestion with others entering the table at the same time.

While it’s customary the guest of honor sits to the right of the host, the interviewer may direct you to a preferred chair at the table, especially if others are in attendance.

Black napkins
Finer restaurants offer a black napkin. Why? For those wearing black slacks or skirts, it avoids leaving white lint on your clothing. Regardless of the napkin color, place it directly on your lap the moment you are seated; do not tuck a napkin into a belt or shirt.

If you need to leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair — not on the table.

Drinking while dining
 During an interview meal, your alcohol consumption will be noticed.

It is acceptable to decline an invitation to order a drink by saying, “Thank you, not today, but please do so yourself.” If you feel it’s important to drink along — do so slowly. There is no need to consume the entire drink.

Overdrinking can be a deal-breaker for your potential employer.

Fair fare
 You are the invited guest, and this meal is on the company. Do not offer to pay or feel obligated to do so.

Show your appreciation with words, and follow up with a traditional hand-written thank you note.

In the final analysis, if you want the upper edge as you sit across the dining table from the president or an interviewer, use your best business manners in creating a relationship with your host company.

Be proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished thus far, demonstrate a relaxed and confident posture, and speak with passion from your heart and mind.

You’ll be perceived as saying “I welcome success!”
Louise Elerding is a manners, etiquette, and personal appearance coach and the author of “You’ve Got Manners!” an illustrated series of children’s books. For information on table manners classes held at Salt Creek Grille in Valencia and to submit questions for the “You’ve Got Manners” column, call 1-800-326-8953 or e-mail Website:


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