The dinner interview can be so unnerving, especially now. Can you say no if you’re not comfortable being in person yet? How should you behave if it’s a fancy restaurant? What should you order?
The process is intimidating at the best of times, and given our current situation, it becomes even more fraught.
The good news is that you can absolutely ask not to meet in person if you’re not comfortable. You can either just say that you aren’t ready yet, or you can mention that you have an immune-compromised person you’re in close contact with, even if, strictly speaking, that isn’t true. (Though chances are that it is—think about aging parents, friends battling cancer, a cousin with lupus, an aunt who’s pregnant.)
In many places, restaurants are offering outdoor seating only, so that might be something you’re okay doing, particularly if you’re really eager to land the job. In that case, here are a few basic rules to follow:
- Don’t have more than one drink. If everyone else is having a glass of wine with the meal, you can indulge as well, but keep it at the one so you have your wits about you and you don’t wind up looking too
- If you get to order your own meal (as opposed to a pre-set menu), choose something at the low-to-mid price range, even if that lobster thermidor is really calling your name. Try to avoid overly messy foods like mussels so that you’re not focused on eating without dropping something on yourself.
- Let them know in advance if you have special dietary needs. While most places can easily accommodate you, a vegetarian like me would have a hard time finding something on a steakhouse menu.
- If it’s a really fancy meal with an overwhelming array of silverware, the rule is to start from the outside and move towards your plate for each course. This image from by Weddings by Georgia shows details.
5. When in doubt, find someone in a position of authority and follow that person’s lead. Ideally you can find someone whose gender presentation matches yours, since sometimes formal dining rules are slightly different for men and women. (I know, I hate that too, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.) For added points, imagine your grandmother is watching and you’ll be fine!