How to Get Through a Recruiting Lunch, Mar 05

Dear Meg,
I’m graduating from law school this spring and am beginning to be recruited by some big firms in the corporate world. I have no idea how to behave during these interviews. What are these people looking for? They didn’t teach us anything about manners at the university I attended. Do you know anything about this?
— Sheila

My Dear Sheila,
Congratulations on finishing law school. That’s a big achievement. You have chosen an area to specialize in that appears to be going gangbusters these days. Are you prescient? I am a bit surprised you never received any instruction in business or interviewing etiquette. This is an essential skill in securing a good position in the professional world. Job-seekers need to be on their Ps & Qs with potential employers. Donald Trump maybe making arrogance and bad behavior seem like good strategies on television but, alas, television is not “reality,” no matter what you call it.

Many of your interviews will probably take place over lunch. The agenda is to watch you maneuver your way through the meal. Small gestures at the table can be indicative of future behavior in the business arena. If you fumble with your cutlery you might be judged as having little control over psycho-motor skills and in need of costly medication; if you are nervous and fidget with food you risk being seen as suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder; and if you are more interested in your food than business matters you could be taken for a woman with a compulsive eating disorder in need of treatment.

I’m being my usual irreverent self, Sheila, but only slightly. You only have a small window of time when the possibility of employment presents itself. Try to have confidence in yourself and your abilities. You have no doubt invested a hefty sum into your education. Why not invest a few more dollars in a course on business manners?

In the meantime, if you have any lunch interviews, don’t talk too much, chew with your mouth open, order any excessively expensive menu items,drink alcohol, or forget to thank the interviewers for their time. Send a follow-up note restating your gratitude for the former.
Good luck and thanks for writing.
Love, Meg