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Personal Behavior for Professional Success

Good manners aren’t about “putting on airs.” Its about making people feel at ease—at the table, in business meetings, and at social events. The impression you make on someone determines your ability to succeed as much as your on-the-job abilities and knowledge.

Lunch and Dinner Interviews
Invitations
At the Interview
Introductions
Seating
Conversation
Dinner with Ease
Reminders
Handling the Various Food Courses
Thank You Notes 
Career and Professional Development Center's “Dine and Act Fine”

Lunch and Dinner Interviews
If you are invited to lunch or dinner by an employer, accept! Extending this invitation to you is an indication that they are truly interested in you and, perhaps, they want to observe your social graces before making a final decision. As one interviewer remarked, “We make it clear that the image of our corporation is reflected not only in our product, but also by those involved in producing our product. The behavior of our employees on and off the job, on the street, or in the marketplace, is of great concern to us.” Here are a few hints to remember when dining out:

  • Let your host or hostess pick the restaurant.
  • If you are to meet your interviewer at the restaurant, be on time or early.
  • The host/hostess should indicate the number in the party and type of seating requested, if they have not already made reservations.
  • A female should follow behind the maitre d’ or the person showing the way to the table.
  • Sit opposite the interviewer unless other seating arrangements are designated.
  • Don’t hide behind the menu.
  • Don’t order an alcoholic drink, even if others do so.
  • Men do not order for women!
  • Select food that is familiar and easy to eat. Avoid thick sandwiches, French Onion soup, or anything that may be messy.
  • Don’t order the same thing as your prospective employer.
  • Don’t order the most expensive item nor the least expensive. Be moderate.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Follow your employer’s lead. Make social conversation when food is on the table, and talk business between courses or after the meal.
  • Comment on the attractiveness and tastefulness of the food when served.
  • The employer will pay for the meal. You do not need to offer to pay.
  • Send your host/hostess a prompt thank-you note for the interview and meal.

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Invitations 

  • Invitations deserve a prompt response. RSVP means “respond, please!” whether you are attending or not!
  • The invitation should plainly communicate whether each guest should bring a guest or not. It is in poor taste to contact the host/hostess and hint or ask for approval to bring a guest.
  • If after accepting an invitation, you must decline for some reason, you should phone your regrets as soon as possible. A note of regret should follow the phone conversation.

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Introductions

  • Traditionally, a man is presented to a woman and a younger person is presented to an older person.
  • Use first and last names of each individual, regardless of status.
  • When seated at a party in someone’s home, both men and women should stand to greet new arrivals.
  • When being introduced, rise, step forward, and smile. Give your name. Shake hands and repeat the other person’s name while saying something like “Nice to meet you, Ms. Adams.”
  • A good handshake is made with a firm (not bone-crushing or fish-limp) grip. It is held for three to four seconds.

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At the Interview 

  • Dress appropriately.
  • Arrive five to ten minutes early.
  • Use the interviewer’s title and last name when addressing him/her (i.e., “Good morning, Ms. Smith”).
  • Wait to be seated.
  • Listen and maintain good eye contact.
  • Do not slouch, chew gum, smoke, or interrupt.
  • Send a thank-you note within twenty-four hours after the interview.
  • If you accept a job offer, you should withdraw your candidacy for other jobs for which you have already applied.

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Seating 

  • A man “seating” a lady has nothing to do with him physically moving her chair. The lady approaches the chair; the gentleman puts a hand on the back of the chair. The lady sits at least two-thirds of the way back and propels the chair toward the table, pulling it with her own hands. The man allows his hand to move along with the back of the chair as she draws it toward the table. When comfortable, the lady says “thank you” and the gentleman seats himself.
  • At individual tables seating twelve or less, the gentleman to the lady’s left should rise any time she leaves or returns to the table. No “reseating” is necessary.

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Conversation  

  • Above all else, a good conversationalist is a good listener. Being a good conversationalist requires basic intelligence, a desire to please, and a sense of humor.
  • Keep in mind that people like to talk about themselves, like to tell of their successes, and enjoy being listened to.
  • Be curious about what others are saying, and ask related questions.
  • Do not interrupt or try to “top” someone else’s story.
  • Concentrate on the conversation and look at the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Bring up a topic when there is a lull in the conversation—others will be grateful. Avoid controversial topics such as politics and religion.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response.
  • Involve everyone in the conversation.
  • Keep it cheerful, pleasant, and polite. Avoid foul language, four-letter words, and unkind statements.

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Dinner With Ease 

  • At a dinner party, guests wait until the hostess is served and picks up her fork to begin. At a large dinner party or buffet, the hostess will encourage guests to begin in order that the food may be eaten while still hot.
  • In a restaurant or banquet, never begin eating any course until everyone has been served, unless prompted by the host or hostess to do so.
  • Wait until the host/hostess places the napkin in his/her lap before you place yours. In a restaurant, napkins are placed on your lap as soon as you are seated. Don’t shake it out first or tuck it into your collar or belt.
  • When you must leave the table during the meal, the napkin is placed on your seat. After the meal, napkins are folded casually and placed to the left of the plate—never on the plate.
  • Become familiar with various table service and settings. Silverware is set in the order of its use. Start on the outside and move inward as the courses are served.
  • Once you use a utensil, it should never touch the table again. Rest it on the edge of your plate.
  • Pass the salt and pepper as a set, never separately. Do not season your food until you have tasted it.
  • When passing food, generally you should offer to the person on your right before serving yourself, then pass to the left.
  • Tipping a soup cup is acceptable, as long as you tip away from yourself.
  • Hold stemmed glasses by the stem at the base of the bowl. A handled cup is held with the index finger through the handle, with the thumb just above the handle for support and the middle finger below the handle for added security. The little finger should not be elevated in an affected manner.
  • Accidents at the table happen to all of us. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible by lifting the bit of food with a convenient utensil. Use your napkin to dab up liquid spills.

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Mama Always Said...And Mama was Always Right! 

  • Sit up straight.
  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • Don’t speak with your mouth full.
  • Chew your food with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t reach across the table.
  • Don’t pick your teeth at the table.
  • Don’t fuss with your hair or make-up at the table.
  • Don’t make eating noises.

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Handling the Various Courses of the Meal 

Soup 

  • Spoon the soup away from you.
  • Sip from the side of the spoon; don’t slurp.
  • Don’t crumble up crackers into the soup; eat them from your hand.
  • The soup spoon should rest on the saucer; never leave it in the cup or bowl.

Salad

  • Cut large pieces of greens or vegetables with a knife, if necessary.
  • If you have a choice of dressings at the table, you may sample one by placing a little bit of the dressing on the side of your salad plate. Continue passing the dressing until you have made your decision.
  • If you don’t eat particular vegetables in the salad, move them to the side of the salad plate and eat around them.

Bread/Rolls

  • Break the slice or roll into quarters. Tear a roll by the creases.
  • Butter and eat one quarter at a time.
  • Do not use the bread as a “pusher” or to wipe up sauce or gravy on a plate.

Entree

  • Cut meat one or two pieces at a time.
  • Hold your knife and fork appropriately, not aggressively!
  • Choose foods that are easy to manage (avoid spaghetti, spicy/saucy foods, fried chicken).
  • To signal that you are finished, place the knife and fork across the plate parallel to each other.

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Thank You Notes 

  • Should be sent within one week.
  • Should include a personal message if using a printed card.
  • Are never out of place, since they are a nice way to reciprocate thoughtfulness and acknowledge another’s consideration.

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  • Career and Professional Development Center
  • Pratt Hall, Suite 302
    201 Pratt Drive
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-2235
  • Fax: 724-357-4079
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m.– 12:00 p.m. and 1:00–4:30 p.m.