The strangest story I have ever heard about a meal interview: a PhD candidate for a university position planted a fork in the middle of a chicken breast, turned it upside down and began taking bites out of it... like it was food on a stick from a state fair. The two interviewers sat mouths agape.

Sometimes it's the big things that cause you to not get the job or potential client. But sometimes it is the little, quirky things.

A few weeks ago, I was giving a dining tutorial at a university and employers in the room revealed what interview candidates did during interview meals that bounced them out of contention:

"She took butter and put it in her coffee. I was completely disgusted by that."
"He answered questions while he still had food in his mouth."
"She blew a bubble with her chewing gum."
"In his second interview over lunch, he boasted about his organizational skills by saying he had organized a five-keg party."
"Her cell phone went off during the interview and she answered it."
"He licked his fingers. That was the hand I was supposed to shake at the end of the meal."

"What's the big deal?" you might think, as you snap your bubble gum. These employers are getting a preview of what their clients or other stakeholders would be seeing, if these people were representing their organization.

Just one reason we learn etiquette -- because we are not just representing ourselves.



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