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Mastering the Dinner Interview: Dressing, Etiquette, and Communication Tips

May 16, 2023 | 0 comments

May 16, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


The dinner interview in an employment process serves many functions to the potential employer who is interviewing. The initial or screening interview provides the employers with information on the candidate’s educational experience and background, but offer little insight into the candidate’s social abilities and skills. According to UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) (2015), employers have a belief that they can tell much about a potential worker by the way they interact socially or the way they eat. Therefore, employers tend to conduct more detailed and longer interviews in social settings like restaurants. UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) (2015) indicates that the employers assume that the way the candidate eat with them is the way they will act as their organizations representative with future clients


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Professional dress and appearance for the dinner interview

Dressing for the dinner interview involves the same requirements and preparations a dressing for any other professional interview. Therefore, the dressing should be professional. The candidate needs to decide on what they are going to wear particularly by paying attention to the appearance. Sher (n.d) stated that an interviewee needs to dress conservatively.

Appearance is very significant in a dinner interview since what an interviewee chooses to put on to the interview is a total reflection on how much respect the interviewee have for the interviewer and their maturity level. The first impression matters a lot during the interview. Salisbury University. (2015) stated that the appearance is the first thing that an interviewee will communicate to the interviewer. Before having the chance of speaking, the potential employer will notice the dress and conclude. There are professional dress standards in all career fields with some industries being more traditional such as business, consulting, and banking. Sher (n.d) suggested that the standards of dressing in the field or area of profession guide on what to wear. The dressing code in fields such as entertainment, communications, fashion, arts, and advertising is less conservative. However, the general business dress for the interview include the following according to Salisbury University (2015):

Men’s interview attire

  1. Suits with coordinated and solid colors. Dark or navy colors are safe
  2. Long-sleeved white shirt or coordinated with the suit
  3. White t-shirt under the shirt
  4. A belt that coordinates with the shoes, preferably black
  5. Tie that coordinates with the suit, made of silk, has a conservative pattern and 3.25 inches or wider
  6. Leather shoes, polished and clean with dark-colored clean socks
  7. Minimal jewelry with no facial piercing
  8. Pen and professional portfolio, or a briefcase

Women’s interview attire

  1. Coordinate suit with conservative colors preferably darker colors
  2. Do not wear sleeveless clothing
  3. Do not wear too tight or too short attire. Skirts should be just above the knee and not higher when seated
  4. Clean and polished dress shoes and not open back, open toe, or tennis shoes.
  5. Minimal jewelry
  6. Nylons with colors complimenting the suit
  7. Come along with a pen and a professional portfolio
  8. Small purse with coordinated colors with the outfit
  9. Scarves are an option but should be stylish and professional

The appropriate dinner etiquette during a dinner interview

The applicant should not season their food by tasting it first. This can be perceived as an insult to the cook or chef and employers who are observant may view the applicant as an individual who makes uninformed decisions and not an individual who first gathers all facts before making a decision. Moreover, if there is a need to pass the pepper or salt, then they should be passed together (UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) 2015). Furthermore, if dressing or sauce is being shared, the candidate needs to spoon some onto their plate and pass the rest on. If they have ordered soup, the most polite way of consuming it is to spoon it across the bowl far away from them. This will have a lesser chance of spilling it on the table or their lap.

When interacting with the waiters, the interviewee should use words such as “thank you,” “please.” Alcohol should also be avoided. Moreover, small bites should be taken for quick chewing before answering a question. Never talk with the foods in the mouth (UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) 2015).

The conversational skills one should consider and address in the dinner interview.

Professionalism should be maintained when communicating by speaking clearly and avoiding slang. The applicant should listen, relax, and actively participate in the discussion. Moreover, the dinner interview is not the time for bringing up controversial topics like politics (UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) 2015).

Before, going for the dinner interview, the applicant needs to have planned their questions ahead of time. This helps prevent going off-track. Questions about the interviewers’ professional background can also be helpful by generating a real conversational exchange, getting first-hand information on how to be successful in the industry from a successful and experienced person.

UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) (2015) pointed out that questions that are only answered in the annual report of the company should be avoided. Talking about salary should also be avoided as it can be negotiated later. Moreover, personal questions should also be avoided such as marital status, educational experience among others.

Interview reflection

Generally, I can say the interview was good, and it proceeded as I expected. However, I was surprised by the process in some way. I expected the interview to be like a formal interview in an office, but my interviewer opted to interview in a nearby restaurant over the lunch hour.

The most memorable part I cannot forget about the interview was how the interviewer was social and less formal with me. We talked over the meal like old friends as we discuss various issues about life, my profession, the industry trends, and recent changes. I found the interviewer very resourceful and professional and admirable by the way he was passionately talking about his work and the company.

Even though the interview asked me many questions, the most challenging and best question that he asked me was, “what extraordinary will you do to our company that will be different from your normal duties and better than other employees?” to be honest, I was not prepared for such a question since my thinking when going for the interview was that the interviewer was interested in my educational background and past work experience. Moreover, I believed that after being hired, I join the normal routine of work like any other employee.

If I happen to meet the interviewer again, I would ask him what motivates and drive him to love his work and what has made him successful in his career. My attitude still has not changed about the interview process and the interviewer because I am specifically gotten what I expected. I expected that the interview process will be a learning process for my field of profession, learn how the interview process is conducted, and get to interact with real professionals in the field.

If I am to describe the interview process in two words, I will describe it as amazing and successful.


UC Davis Internship & Career Center (ICC) (2015).Interview Over a Meal.

Sher, C. (n.d).Corporate Interview Tips – How to Dress for a Job Interview. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2015, from http://www.baseops.net/transition/interview_appearance.html

Salisbury University. (2015). Appropriate Dress for the Interview. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from http://www.salisbury.edu/careerservices/students/Interviews/Dress.html

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