What Not to Eat on a Job Interview

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With unemployment hovering around 10%, it’s a safe bet that some of you are heading out on job interviews.
Interviews are stressful, nerve-wracking, and brain-draining. When the interview takes place over a meal, you’re throwing food on top of the stomach-churning anxiety.

You’ve got the warm smile and the hearty handshake down pat. You know how to listen carefully and formulate intelligent answers. But while eating?
Here are some ordering tips that can help you stay on your game during a meal-time interview.

The basics:
You don’t want to eat anything that is messy, smelly, unwieldy, distracting, noisy, gas-producing, makes your eyes water or your nose run. It shouldn’t require a bib or specialized utensils like mallets, shellfish crackers, or escargot tongs. Follow your interviewer’s lead when it comes to ordering multiple courses and alcohol.

Foods to avoid:

  • pasta—choose wisely. Long strands of spaghetti or linguine can leave loose ends dangling from your mouth. Penne is a safe bet.
  • corn on the cob—you’ll look like a rat gnawing on a spool of twine. In fact stay away from anything that requires gnawing, like chicken wings and spare ribs.
  • berries (other than blueberries)—you don’t want little seeds in your teeth. For the same reason, you’ll want to avoid anything poppy at all costs.
  • melted cheese—the kind that stretches from plate to fork or fork to mouth. How about a nice, smooth goat cheese instead?
  • soup—only for the very confident. If you’re already nervous, the heat can make you sweat even more, and a shaky hand can lead to spills.
  • any menu item with garlic in the title—who wants to be known as the candidate with the bad breath? Ditto for raw onions.
  • spicy foods—know your tolerance threshold and stay safely within it.
  • off-the-menu ordering—take it as it comes. You don’t want to appear childish, neurotic, or persnickety. Barring food allergies or other medical restrictions, there should be no special requests.

Come to think of it, it’s kind of like a first date.
What you choose to eat speaks volumes about who you are. When it’s a meal-time job interview, you need to take control of the message you’re sending.

And don’t forget—switch off that mobile phone even before you get to the table.

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8 Responses to What Not to Eat on a Job Interview

  1. Monet says:

    So funny! I want to send this to all of my unemployed friends…but I’m not sure they are at the point of laughing about their job status yet. You brought such a smile to my face though. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lol another funny and entertaining post as always 🙂

  3. Seriously funny. And no sauteed spinach. Very dangerous. Don’t take too long to order, it implies indecisiveness. I am going to have this going on in my head all night.

  4. I was taken to a second interview over lunch. I ordered a very demure salad with goat cheese and carmelized walnuts. It’s very stressful because not only are you having to maintain intelligent conversation but you have to have impeccable manners. On top of it all I knew I was the best candidate but had to let the interviewer know I was 5 months pregnant! She hired me anyways. 🙂 Also heard a story of someone out to dinner who was being considered for a hospital executive role. White silk blouse and she ordered ribs! She wasn’t offered the position.

  5. Janice says:

    baobabs- So what was the winning meal?

  6. baobabs says:

    this is really funny!! I was hired over a meal, but I didn’t expect the job offer coming! great tips though!

  7. Janice says:

    They are pretty common.
    Sometimes a restaurant is used because there needs to be secrecy around the new employee and the interview can’t be held in the company’s offices.
    Sometimes a lunch interview is deliberately set up as a test of manners and social skills, usually when the position entails client contact.
    Sometimes there just isn’t an office to meet in.

  8. I’ve never had a job interview over a meal, but it strikes me as a bad, BAD idea!

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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