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Dining Etiquette: Don't Network With Your Mouth Full

Dining Etiquette: Don't Network With Your Mouth Full

By Adam C. Mayer | Monster Contributing Writer

October 22, 2009

This article originally appeared in Monster’s Career Advice Section

No matter where a meeting takes place, it is still a meeting. If a potential client decides to interview you over a meal at a restaurant, your table manners must be up to par. The following etiquette guidelines will help get you through your next dinner interview.

Long before you enter the restaurant, make sure you turn off your cell phone or beeper. The salesperson who receives a call during the meal doesn’t receive a call after the meal.

Before the meal arrives, be sure to actively listen to the interviewer. Paraphrase the content of what an interviewer is saying. Be sure to stay away from sensitive subjects such as religion and politics. Look for and seize any opportunity to sell yourself.

During the Meal

Eighty percent of communication is expressed through body language. Although you may be nervous, do your best to relax. Maintain an assured posture throughout the meal and, yes, elbows off the table.

Chances are good that more than one person will meet with you. If this is the case, wait until everyone is comfortably seated at the table, and then place your napkin in your lap. If your napkin happens to fall to the floor, ask the server for a new one.

Browse the menu for harmless foods such as moderately priced chicken or fish. Stay away from messy foods such as spaghetti, expensive items and anything that sounds colossal. When ordering, be courteous to the wait staff. Throughout the meal, be sure to say “please” and “thank you.” Your polite attitude will foster an overall positive impression.

After the Meal

Indicate that you are finished with your meal by placing the knife and fork, on your plate, at 4 o’clock. Be sure to place the napkin on the right-hand side of your table setting.

Make sure to tip properly for your service.

Be sure to thank them and obtain business cards if you are meeting anyone for the first time. Follow up the next day with a thank-you correspondence with your dinner guest. Send one as soon as possible.

Dining 101