Which makes you more nervous: a job interview or a first date? If your answer is both, let me calm your fears. A dinner interview feels a lot like a first date.
You know the person already. You may have even met with them one-on-one before. But this will be the first time you’ve gone out together. It’s a big step. While on a date, you’re mainly discussing your personal life. On a dinner interview, you’ll be focusing on your professional life. However, I think a good dinner interview mixes the two worlds nicely.
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I’ve probably been on half a dozen dinner interviews.
Some were casual. Some were formal, and some were one-on-one. One was with everyone on the team – probably a dozen people. I kind of feel bad for not accepting that position.
I’m very comfortable with dinner interviews now. Once you get it right, it means more money and more opportunities.
The first thing you should know is that if someone wants to break bread with you, it's pretty serious.
You’re probably close to getting “in the club.” So don’t be too nervous. You’re already doing well. Congratulations.
The interviewer will pick the venue and they’ll pretty much pick the time. You don’t really need too worry much about the logistics.
Before going there, I like to consult the menu online.
Mentally bookmark a few items that are in different price ranges. Make sure they are all easy to eat. Picking different price ranges is important because you need to match whatever price your host is going with.
If they order an $18 pasta plate instead of the $36 steak, you should choose something under $20, as well. It’s only courteous, as the company will likely pay the bill and the tip – not you. Choosing ahead of time will keep you from seeming indecisive. Plus, you’ll be able to spend that time regaling your interviewer with tales of your professional accomplishments.
Make sure your etiquette is on-point, too. Show them that you would fit in well, should they decide to take you to nice events. But I won’t go too deep into this topic – the etiquette between a date and an interview isn’t much different.
Eat when you’re able. Try to time it right so the interviewer doesn’t ask a question when you’re still chewing. Awkward silence is the worst. Though do remember to eat. I had one interview in which I was so busy talking, I hardly ate anything. The people at the table thought I didn’t like what I ordered.
Remember to treat the wait staff well.
It will show the interviewer that you can get along well with strangers. Also, don’t start talking business right away. That’s not how we do it in the States. Let the conversation be personal until the interviewer changes gears. In fact, on some of my interviews, we never got down to business. I could tell the team was just seeing how well we gelled.
Make sure everyone involved knows how much you want the position. It’s always a good idea to send a thank-you note to everyone who attended. Including an after dinner mint is a nice touch.
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The only awkward thing I’ve had happen to me is when one interviewer announced he needed to wash his hands before he ate. He got up and slowly left. To this day, I don’t know if he wanted me to follow suit or what. It was odd. But I thought it would be even more odd to wash hands together than to remain seated.
Dinner interviews and first dates can be challenging. But unless (or until) you start your own business and get married, they’re a part of life. As long as you behave yourself and share a few laughs, you should be in the club. Enjoy your first paycheck.