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Dining Etiquette: 7 Foods Not to Order on a Job Interview

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If you've made it to the second or third round of interviews, you may be invited to a follow-up interview conducted over a meal. There are a few dining tips to consider before walking through the restaurant door - namely what foods on the menu to steer clear from. Obviously, anything that requires you to use your fingers as an eating utensil should be avoided. Unless your future boss suggests you meet at a famous barbeque station, or local burger joint, pick and choose with caution. If you are surrounded with meat patties and chicken wings, do your best to stay clean and keep plenty of napkins handy. Here are 7 foods not to order on a job interview:

  1. Spinach or Kale Salad. Salads are difficult to navigate under the best of circumstances. You are already in a stressful situation, attempting to ask and answer job-related questions. The constant worry of greens attached to the front of your teeth should be enough incentive to guide you to an alternative menu choice. If your interviewer doesn't make any meal suggestions, order something that is "middle of the road" in price point and easy to maneuver into your mouth.
  2. Sloppy Joes and Cheesy Fries. This may be your all time "go-to" comfort food, but save it for the weekend with your friends. "Finger Lickin' Good" is not the goal of this particular meal. If you are meeting at a deli, where sandwiches and sides are your only option, choose one that does not drip, sop, or stain. Turkey and Swiss with a side of potato salad, is relatively safe, unless, of course, you go overboard with the mustard or mayo.
  3. Spaghetti. There is no easy way to twirl and shove a basketball size mound of spaghetti into your mouth. When ordering pasta request a dish that uses a small noodle, such as penne, ravioli, or orecchiette, which is easy to chew and swallow in a few bites. Avoid the red sauce, opting for a white wine or lemon butter sauce instead. Ultimately, "no stains" is the best end result, but a lemon butter spill is better than crushed tomatoes.
  4. Surf and Turf or Off the Menu Items. These selections are usually pricier and generally have a market value attached. You aren't invited to a lunch interview because your future employer is interested in your appetite. They want to observe your social skills, which includes your good judgment when it comes to ordering under pressure. Choosing the most expensive item on the menu is not a good move.
  5. The Kiddie Meal. Yes, it does happen! You may have a "pint size" appetite, but it is important to come across as a confident adult during the interview. Pass up the chicken fingers and tater tots, and don't mention your tradition of ordering off the Kids Menu to save money. Their company budget can afford a "big person" plate, and your reputation depends on it.
  6. Anything Requiring a Baby Bib. Unless your interview takes place on a pier, or at a famous lobster house, skip the difficult to eat food and order something that is less messy, and doesn't leave your future boss with a mental image of you wearing a big bib. Shaking hands goodbye will also be an unpleasant reminder to your potential boss of your unfortunate food choice. On the other hand, if your boss takes you to a restaurant specifically because of the great seafood, and encourages you to order a particular item, feel free to jump in with both hands, showing you are willing to take risks. Just make sure your bib is nice and tight so you don't accidentally spill on the front of your shirt or collar.
  7. Dessert. Ordinarily, ordering a piece of cake or pie at the end of a meal is harmless. But, when it comes to a job interview, time is often an issue. Allow your interviewer to take the lead, and you follow suit. It may be a situation where they still are interested in learning a little more, or they may be ready to leave and would prefer to close the conversation. When in doubt, ask, "Are you planning on having dessert? (Or coffee?)", and use your best judgment based on their response. If they are ordering dessert and you choose not to take part, order a cup of hot tea or another drink (nonalcoholic) so your interviewer is not eating alone.

For more tips read, Dining Etiquette and the Second Interview. Visit Diane's blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and, "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.