So you rocked the Career Fair and caught a couple leads. Turns out, not only is the employer interested in interviewing you, but they offer to take you out to lunch! Some of you out there may have attended the Career Center’s Business Dining Etiquette Dinner so you already know some of the ins and outs of proper dining etiquette. But for those of you that missed our event (and the chicken marsala and vegetable medley), don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

First off, you should treat the whole experience like an interview. Please, please, PLEASE, don’t be late. No one wants that. Also, come dressed professionally and groomed properly. Remember the employer is taking you out for lunch to get to know you better, so you still need to be on your toes since you don’t have the job yet. Keep your elbows and your personal items off the table (i.e. cell phones, wallets, purses.). In fact, go ahead and turn your cell off before the meal – you don’t want it vibrating or buzzing throughout dinner.

Here are some helpful tips to remember when it comes time to order the meal:

  • Don’t take lots of time deciding what to order. If you’re having trouble deciding, just go with the first thing you thought about ordering.
  • If you have questions about the menu, it’s okay to ask the waiter/waitress.
  • Do yourself a favor and order easy to eat food – don’t get pasta, chicken wings, ribs, lobster, etc. I ordered duck at my senior prom in high school and immediately regretted it. Needless to say, the way they prepare duck makes it almost impossible to eat without getting yourself, your clothes and your neighbor greasy.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the type of food, it’s okay to ask the waitperson or your host what they recommend. Asking your host for suggestions also gives you a price range for you to base your decision on.

Once the food arrives and you begin to eat, start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in towards the plate. If someone next to you happens to take your fork or it falls to the ground, go ahead and ask your waiter for another one – don’t make a scene or comment on the fact that you’re missing a utensil.

Now, there are two different types of dining etiquette: Continental and American. I would recommend using the American as it is more common in the US (Continental is more European) and quite honestly, just more comfortable. In the American style, you start with the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left (opposite for lefties!). After you cut your food, place the knife across the plate, and transfer the fork to your dominate hand so you can eat. You can cut up to 3 pieces at a time.

Continental style starts the same, with the fork in the left and the knife in the right hand, but you don’t transfer the fork over to your right hand. The fork remains in the left hand, with the tines down (this is the frustrating part for me, but if this is easier/more comfortable for you, then you should go for it).  If the food is too difficult to get with a fork (peas, rice, etc.), you can use your knife push the food onto your fork.

When you’re done with your dinner, place your fork and knife on your plate at an angle. If you imagined the plate as a clock, you would want to be the fork and knife at the 5 o’clock position, as shown below.

Don’t be afraid to use your hands to break your bread, rolls or muffins. Just be sure to break them into small/moderate pieces before you butter/eat them. Remember that you are there for your conversation first, your appetite second. It’s okay for you to offer to pay for your own meal, but don’t push the subject. The host knows that they are supposed to pick up the check, otherwise they wouldn’t have invited you. That being said, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, ask for a doggie bag – the employer took you out to get to know you, not to buy you dinner and hook you up for lunch the next day. After dinner, shake hands, thank your host for the lovely meal and ask for his/her business card if you don’t already have it. Lastly, don’t forget to follow up with a nice, hand-written thank you note!

Check out this blog for more general tips: