Mind Your Manners

October 26, 2007 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

At some point in your career, whether it’s for an interview or a meeting, you will have to attend a business dinner. I took a dining etiquette class awhile ago, but I know I need to brush up, and I’m sure you do too.

First and foremost, a business dinner is not about the meal. It’s about the conversation. If your job interview is over dinner, it’s because your potential boss wants to see what you are like in a social setting. The main focus is on what you say.

Having said that, there are some things you need to know so you don’t make a mistake during the meal.

Beginning and ending the meal

  • The meal begins when your host unfolds his or her napkin. You should then do the same. Most of the time you will place the napkin on your lap, but follow your host’s lead if he or she does it different.
  • If there is a dish you are uncertain about, ask your server. That way, you know exactly what you are getting.
  • The dinner is finished when your host places his or her napkin on the table.
  • When finished, do not push your plate away from you or stack the plates. To alert the server you are done, lay your knife and fork so it is as if they are pointing to the numbers 10 and 4 on your plate. Also, never place used utensils back on the table.

During the meal

confusion-on-dining.jpgIf you are confused as to which bread plate or glasses are yours, always remember all food dishes are to your left, and your drinking glasses are to the right. The amount of silverware in front of you can be intimidating too, but most of the time if you work your way from the outside in, you’ll be fine.

Worldroom.com, a global travel site, offers 10 points for proper dining etiquette. Here are the ones I found most interesting:

  • Never cut bread or rolls. Break off one piece at a time, butter it, then eat it.
  • When in doubt, always use a utensil, even for foods you would normally eat with your fingers at home.
  • Use the edge of your plate to twirl pasta, not a spoon.
  • Never ask for a “doggy bag.”

More tips:

  • Always pass to your right, and don’t help yourself first.
  • When eating soup, draw the spoon away from you and sip from the side of the spoon.
  • Always pass the salt and pepper shakers as a set, even when only one is requested.
  • If you have to get up for any reason, place your napkin on your chair and quietly say “excuse me” to those sitting next to you.
  • Don’t stab your food or hold your silverware with your fists. Don’t gesture with your silverware.

Also, watch your alcohol consumption. If you feel you are expected to drink, order only one and sip it slowly throughout dinner. Too much alcohol can be a very bad thing.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Farquhar.If you want more tips, pick up an etiquette book. It would probably be a good investment. Also, see if your school offers an etiquette dinner so you can practice. For example, the PRSSA chapter at Kent State puts on an etiquette dinner during the spring semester.

I know some of this etiquette stuff seems unnecessary, but it’s important. Business dinners, especially for a job interview, can be nerve-wracking enough. Knowing proper dining etiquette will make it easier.

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