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Interviewing Over Lunch: Are You at Risk?

Sometimes a hiring process will include having lunch with the hiring manager. Despite anything said to the contrary (like "It'll just be an informal lunch so we can get to know each other."), this is a formal part of your interview!

This can be a very tricky situation.

Impressions made in a restaurant are just as important as those in an office or meeting room.

If you don't want an "eating mishap" to ruin your chances at a new job (or a promotion if you're dining with the boss), follow these tips:

1. Avoid ordering messy foods.

This includes long pasta, of course, but also anything with stringy cheese... you know, the kind that stretches up with your fork from the plate to your mouth.

Watch out for soup, anything with a sauce or other "drippable" ingredient. No matter how careful you are, you know an invisible hole can magically appear in your spoon and cause you to drip all over yourself!

Even a salad can be hazardous! Have you ever tried to spear a cherry tomato with your fork and squirted yourself, your neighbor, or watched the tomato go flying off your plate? Not impressive. Avoid cherry tomatoes.

2. Mind your manners.

First, let me say I am definitely NOT "Miss Manners." These are just common-sense tips, not something you'd learn at charm school. (So don't send me an email with the "proper" etiquette, OK?)

This may be considered old-fashioned and unnecessary by some (especially women's libbers, if there's still such a thing), but I think it's still a nice courtesy for a man to pull out a chair for a woman. Either sex can offer to take someone's coat and hang it up. In general, just be nice, thoughtful, and courteous.

Thank the servers.

If you're in a fancy place with 6 different forks, 3 knives and 2 spoons, don't freak out about which to use for what. In general, they're placed in the order in which the food that you use them with will be served... implement furthest from the plate being used first. So when the salad comes out first, grab the fork furthest from your plate. Or just watch what the big shot does and follow his/her example.

If your food comes out first, don't start scarfing it down while the other(s) wait for their food to arrive. If they're courteous, they'll invite you to go ahead before your food gets cold. Likewise, if someone else has been served and is waiting while your food is delayed, invite them to go ahead and eat.

Don't reach... ask someone to pass.

Don't use your bread to mop up sauce, soup, or anything else.

Don't slurp or burp. Ever. Yes, this may be acceptable in some countries as a way to show appreciation for good food, but if you're in the U.S., don't do it. Even if the big shot does.

3. Watch the cost.

It doesn't matter if you've been told, "Order anything you'd like, this is on me." Do not order the most expensive thing on the menu! Even if the big shot does.

4. Beer or wine?

Have you seen that commercial where several guys are at a restaurant with a big shot and he asks what they want to drink? They go around the table and all order a non-alcoholic drink except for the last guy, who orders a Sam Adams (beer). The big shot is "impressed" and orders the same.

Hah! Never fall for anything you see in a beer commercial!

Would you have a beer or glass of wine at the office? (You better say "No!") Despite the surroundings, food and drink, if this is a business function (and it certainly is if you're interviewing or discussing business with your boss), do NOT order alcohol! Even if the big shot does.

Remember, the bottom line is that it's not about the food or the drink -- it's about making a good impression!

Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System and free information-packed ezine, "Career-Life Times." Find those and other powerful career-building resources and tips at her website: http://www.Best-Interview-Strategies.com

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