The entertainment interview may be done in many ways, but the most common is an interview over a meal (generally lunch or breakfast, but sometimes a dinner) and it can include a one-on-one, but more often than not includes several interviewers who have a stake in your hiring. Why would they want to interview over a meal? There is any number of reasons; but always chief among them is the opportunity to observe and seriously scrutinize you.
#1 Be fully prepared.
Do not mistake this sort of interview for a chance to get a free lunch or it is for your enjoyment and pleasure. It is not. In fact, you must look at every type of interview, no matter how casual or informal it may seem, as the most important one of your career and there is no room for error. Treat each and every one with the seriousness of any other one you have ever had.
#2 Be on your best behavior.
If the position you are applying for is a high profile one and requires entertaining clients regularly, then this is a perfect opportunity for the interview team to see how you behave. What sort of table manners do you have? Do you know your table etiquette? Do you possess social etiquette and manners? Do you drink too much? Are you a sloppy eater? Do you have the good sense to know how to act in such a situation? Do you know how to put others at ease? Can you carry a conversation? Are you interesting? Can you sell?
At every step of the way do not hesitate to think for a moment that you are not being observed and judged on every word you utter and every move you make. Your behavior is under the spotlight and you had better know how to behave to the highest social and professional standards. That said, you also need to relax and help contribute to a comfortable engagement so the interview will go smoothly and work to your advantage.
#3 Mind your manners.
Remember to be polite; say please and thank you to your fellow diners and serving staff. Do you know what to do when first taking your seat? Immediately place your napkin on your lap when everyone is seated. Sit up straight, keep elbows off the table and avoid resting your arms on the table. Your salad fork is on the far left; your entrée fork will be next to it between the salad fork and your plate while your dessert spoon and fork will be placed on top, above your plate. Liquids are on the right; solids on the left. Thus, your water glass will be on the right and your bread plate will be to the left.
#4 Sharpen your social skills and etiquette.
If you are unsure of your knowledge and practice of social and professional etiquette and manners then ask a close friend, colleague or family member to give you their assessment of you in this regard. Check out a book on the subject as there are many excellent ones out there. Practice your social skills and make sure the right ones become a part of your everyday life. Many firms will remove you from further consideration because you do not have mastery of these skills in your life and these are considered fundamental, essential and critically important to firms that use entertaining as a crucial component to the success of their business.
In fact, the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys organization takes their top cheerleader prospects out to a high end restaurant and orders an array of dishes simply to see how the women behave and eat. How do you eat king crab legs or lobster? What about BBQ ribs and corn on the cob? Can you eat spaghetti without slurping and making a mess? Do you use a spoon, fork, knife or combination thereof to eat your peas? Which is correct? Those who do not know what fork to use for which dish, or do not know when to use their hands rather than choosing a fork or knife, and vice versa, are simply eliminated.
Part of organization’s try-out process includes the expectation that every candidate ought to know these fundamental social skills before trying out. After all, management reasons, they are the team’s ambassadors and all of the world’s eyes are watching their every move and listening to every word. It is not their role to teach their employees this proper behavior. You better know it and live it well. Consider your meal interview in the same way. Make sure you know what to do in every situation.
#5 Follow the lead of your host.
As a general rule, follow the lead of the interviewer who is your host. Ask what they might recommend to eat. That will give you a clue as to what might be the most appropriate items to order, what they enjoy and can provide the opportunity to discuss a favorite dish to keep the conversation light.
Most likely your host will defer to you to place the first order with your waiter. In any case, avoid ordering alcohol, even if your host insists because you want to remain as clear headed as possible throughout the interview process. Instead, order a soft drink or other non-alcoholic beverage as long as it is not a virgin-type non-alcoholic drink (i.e., virgin margarita, virgin bloody mary, etc.).
As for food, stay with simple foods that you know how to eat properly, are not messy and will not get your hands and face messy. Thus, avoid most foods you generally eat with your hands unless it is a very simple sandwich or hamburger. Best, order something simple you can eat with a knife and fork, and will not be messy or require you to eat it awkwardly. Soups are good choices (do not slurp). Eat your soup pushing the spoon away from you as this will lessen any chance of spilling it in your lap.
#6 Watch what you eat.
Opt for the lower to mid-level priced entrees. Be careful about ordering the special recommended by the server because more often than not, that is among the highest priced items on the menu. Keep in mind you are going to be talking throughout and will likely be talking considerably more than the others so you want to have a meal that is easy to cut into small bite size pieces you can easily and quickly chew and swallow before resuming your conversation. Break your dinner roll into small bite-size pieces.
#7 Mind your P’s and Q’s.
Do not talk with food in your mouth and use your napkin frequently to ensure your face remains clean. Your interviewers are watching you and you do not want sauce dripping down your chin unknowingly. If you leave the table, put your napkin on your chair, not on the table, and promptly place it back on your lap when you return. And when you are done, place your utensils at the three o’clock position on your plate so the server knows you are through. The person who invited you is your host for the meal and is expected to pay for it, so allow that person to pick up the tab. But most importantly, graciously say thank you and express how much you enjoyed your meal together.
#8 Remember this is an interview, not a free lunch.
Accept the notion you may not really eat at all, but instead be busy answering questions. Thus, it does not really matter if you eat, but you know how to eat properly. Save your appetite for an after interview meal if you need to. Keep in mind that the meal interview is designed to ascertain your habits, manners, conduct, protocol, proper social behavior and ability, and your customs.
#9 Be careful what you drink.
Included in the entertainment interview type is the cocktail interview, though this is seldom used and is highly unusual. However, if you are asked to meet for drinks, do not take this invitation lightly because you will be under the spotlight even if you think it is to just have a beer with the guys.
It makes good sense to try and avoid this by politely suggesting a meeting later over coffee or at the office. But, if you must accept such an invitation, follow the advice previously given and consider yourself to be the focus of attention. Again, avoid the alcohol and order a soft drink instead.
If your interview insists that you have a drink, and assuming you are not a teetotaler, it may be wiser to say yes as a diplomatic means of moving the interview forward on the proper note. This is a judgment call you can only make in the light of the moment. If you do have a drink, have no more than one. You must remain clearheaded at all times. Remember, this is really not the time to be socializing with the team because you are being interviewed for a job that affects your future, your life and your career. Save the social hour with the team after you have the job.
#10 Be sociable.
Keep in mind that no matter what sort of entertainment venue is chosen for your interview, it is a formal interview and you must be at the top of your game. You are being evaluated at every turn and you must be sure that you are not giving your interviewer any reason to drop you from further consideration. You are competing for a job you highly covet. Be serious and go after it with all of your highly learned skills and tact. That said, you must also have a relaxing social side to you and therefore, you want to be just as at ease as if you were sitting in the interviewer’s office.