• United States

Mailbag: Mind your manners

Apr 01, 20032 mins
Data Center

* Readers offer their suggestions for inteviewing over lunch or dinner

In a recent newsletter, I relayed some third-party advice about how you should behave when you’re on a job interview that’s conducted over lunch or dinner. Two of you wrote to offer your own suggestions.

Presentation skills trainer Marisa D’Vari of Deg.Com Communications had said in the previous newsletter, “The key thing to remember is that the interview isn’t about eating, it’s presenting yourself effectively and positioning yourself for the job.”

However, IT security consultant David Wallace says, “I must beg to differ – the interview can be very much about eating.” As a consultant, he’s often called upon to entertain clients, and says he’s expected to present a professional, cultured image in an upscale setting.

“I have several times been on interviews that were what I like to call ‘cutlery calls’,” Wallace says. “The host WAS watching to which end of the Emily Post spectrum I was working from. The right fork DID matter.”

Wallace follows these rules of thumb:

* Your primary tools are on either side of the plate. The stuff up top is for accompaniments – bread knives, desert forks, etc.

* Work from the outside in. Salad fork will be on the outside, dinner fork on the inside.

* Small utensils for small plates – Salad fork is smaller than the dinner fork. Desert fork is smaller than the salad fork.

* If you’re going on cutlery call, practice & train – You weren’t born knowing how SSL works, you learned how.

He suggests practicing by taking someone for a special dinner at four-star restaurant, and asking the server questions about what particular pieces of the place setting are for and how they are used.

And Alan Brind writes, “Good article, good advice, if you are being interviewed by an American company. But bad advice if you are being interviewed by a European company, especially British. Brind, a Brit who has been in the U.S. since 1977, says, “It’s customary to pick up the knife and fork, and for goodness sake don’t swap over, as this is considered bad manners in that culture.”

He adds, “It might seem unfair, but this would be a negative for the applicant.”