Monday, October 28, 2013

Bring Your Best to the Table - How to Succeed at a Dinner Interview

By Deanna Baker, Career Services Center Intern

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, professionalism is defined “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” As a student at Ashland University I have behaved in a professional manner throughout my interviews for internships. It is the foundation on which we acquire and maintain our future employment status. However, my recent interviewing experience allowed me to view professionalism in a different setting… at the dinner table.

Normally, preparing for and interacting in interviews come naturally to me. I enjoy talking with people and building a connection. Upon hearing back from the company I was most interested in, I was ecstatic! They asked to meet with me again, except this time it was not going to be a one-on-one interview, they wanted me to attend a second interview session at a restaurant. I had never gone on a dining interview session before, and frankly, I was quite nervous. Thus started my anxious inquiries: How should I act? What do I order? Do I dress business casual or professional? Fortunately, recalling the informational etiquette dinner workshop I attended last year, as well as obtaining some valuable advice from my supervisors at Career Services, allowed me to better prepare and feel more poised during my meeting. 

First and foremost, let the best of your personally shine! Dinner and lunch interviews are all about getting to know you as a person. Typically employers have already witnessed your professional side, but more importantly, they want to know how you maintain a tactful composure in a relaxed atmosphere with co-workers. It is important to be as respectful as possible, but if you are a huge Cleveland sports fanatic, and so is the person you are conversing with, let the conversation flow! Employers want to come in to work every day knowing that they get along with most of the people they work with. Knowing you can converse easily with them shows you would be a great fit for their office. Just keep in mind that these may be your future bosses and co-workers, so keep it classy and tasteful.

While some interviews come across as informal remember that you are still merely a candidate, not an official employee. Like any other formal meeting come prepared! This means bring extra copies of your resume and any references, further research the company beforehand (in case a product or service they offer comes up in conversation you can chime in with what you know), and dress just as if you were going to the first interview. It’s better to be overly prepared than not.

Go in with the impression that you are not there to eat the food, no matter how nice of a restaurant it is. If it helps, eat something beforehand or directly after. You are there to converse, not lick the plate clean. Deciding on what to order should be important. If you are not familiar with the restaurant you will be attending, look up their location and menu ahead of time. This way you don’t waste time finding the place or contemplating on what to eat. Order something that is easy to eat and won’t make you look like a toddler trying to eat Spaghetti-O’s. I recommend something that involves minimal cutting, nothing that involves eating with your hands and nothing that is overly saucy. Pasta with smaller noodles such as rigatoni, macaroni, and penne are perfect. Foods that can be easily placed on a fork and you can chew subtly are also highly appropriate.

Finally, always execute proper table manners. This is fairly practical, but placing your napkin in your lap, chewing with your mouth closed, and never reaching over someone for the salt and pepper should be kept in mind. For further information about table-side etiquette I highly recommend attending Ashland University’s Etiquette Dinner on November 12th. Space is limited so register for the event by Tues., Nov. 5th. It truly is a fun experience and all the information that will be given is extremely useful. I would like to think this advice helped me obtain the internship of my dreams.

I hope this info is helpful and I wish everyone the best on their interviews! 

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