Occasionally a job candidate is required to eat a meal (lunch or dinner, typically) during an interview. This happens most often when the job requires the employee to entertain clients. The important thing to keep in mind at all times is that you are still being interviewed. It may seem like a casual, social situation to you, but it is not. They are still judging your appearance, answers to questions, and manners.
There are many published guides about dining etiquette. If you want to learn all the details about formal dining behavior, you can pick up a thick book at the library and learn the correct placement of the asparagus tongs. This guide won’t do that, though, for two reasons: most interview meals are not that formal and they are mostly about what you say, not about your food. Most interview meals are semi-formal, not formal: you may encounter a salad fork and a bread plate, but probably not a fish fork. If you are focused on the food and the formality, you are missing the point of the interview. You need to eat politely, but not as if you are Miss Manner’s chosen successor. You are really there to continue to talk about yourself. Just follow these seven general rules and stay focused on the interview.
Rule One: Follow the Leader
Pay attention to the people around you and let them take the lead first and foremost. If you see an extra utensil you have never used before, look around to see if anyone else is using it and follow his or her lead. Most guests know not to put their elbows on the table or to eat with their hands. Unless? you are taken to a rib joint, and your future boss plants his elbows on the table while he eats his ribs out of hand. It’s good to fit into the standards of the people around you. Try to be a little more conservative in your behavior than the othersthey are not being interviewed after all, so they can get away with more. If there are other job candidates at the table, don’t take your cues from them, they are often making mistakes. Only follow the leader.