Cleveland State University

Career Services Center

Career Tips

Dining Interview Etiquette Manners

"Please Pass the Job Offer" Dining Etiquette workshop.




  • Neglecting to introduce someone may not be forgiven in a social setting.
  • Introductions are handled by rank (young to old; employee to employer)
  • Introduce the highest ranking person first.
  • Mention some information about each person. Stand while being introduced - always rise. It shows respect.

UH OH...I Forgot Your Name...

  • Admit you have forgotten.
  • Stay calm and straightforward. "I remember meeting you, but I simply cannot recall your name."

Conversation Starters

  • "How do you do?"
  • "I'm pleased to meet you."
  • "Do you two know each other?"
  • "I'd like you to meet..."
  • "I'd like to introduce..."

Name Tags

  • Always wear your name tag on the right hand side of your chest.

Table Talk

  • Consider your audience!
  • If you're discussing business over dinner, you may need to make small talk for about half an hour before talking business.
  • If you're having a business lunch, you may need to stick to business because of time constraints.
  • Do not ask someone very personal or intimate questions (inquiries into religious beliefts, financial situations, illness or personal details about an affair/divorce are OFF LIMITS!)
  • Do not spread gossip or tell racial or sexually oriented jokes.
  • Leave money matters at home.

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  • It is best to order foods that can be eaten with a knife and fork. Finger foods can be messy and are best left for informal dining.
  • Do not order alcoholic beverages. Drinking too much when dining out is one of the most disliked behaviors.
  • Do not smoke while dining out.
  • Sit up straight at the table. It makes a good impression.
  • If food gets caught between your teeth and you can't remove it from your tongue, leave the table and go to a mirror where you can remove the food from your teeth in private.
  • As a guest, you should not order one of the most expensive items on the menu or more than two courses unless your host indicates that it is all right.

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formal table service illustration

  • "Liquids on your right" and "Solids on your left"
  • It is important to place the glassware or cup back in the same position after its use in order to maintain the visual presence of the table.


  • Choosing the correct silverware from the variety in front of you is not as difficult as it may first appear.
  • Starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in, using one utensil for each course.
  • The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soupspoon is on your outermost right, followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife.
  • Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought out with dessert.
  • Remember the rule to work from the "outside in".
  • When finished eating, lay your fork and knife diagonally across your plate. Place your knife and fork side by side, with the sharp side of the knife blade facing inward and the fork, tines down, to the left of the knife. The knife and fork should be placed as if they are pointing to the numbers 10 and 4 on a clock face.


  • Immediately put your napkin on your lap within the first TEN seconds after sitting down.
  • The meal begins when the host unfolds his/her napkin.
  • Do use your napkin to blot your mouth.
  • Don't use your napkin as a bib.
  • Don't use your napkin as a handkerchief (especially if it's made of cloth.)
  • When leaving the table after you're done, leave the napkin on the table. Don't crumble up your napkin at all. Fold it loosely and leave it beside your plate.

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Continental (European) Style of Eating:
One cuts the food by holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand with the fork tines piercing the food to secure it on the plate. Simply eat the cut pieces of food by picking them up with your fork still in your left hand, tines facing down, and the knife in your right hand.

American Style of Eating:
One cuts the food by holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand with the fork tines piercing the food to secure it on the plate. Cut a few bite-size pieces of food, then lay your knife across the top edge of your plate with the sharp edge of the knife facing in. Change your fork from your left to your right hand to eat, fork tines facing up (if you are left-handed, keep your fork in your left hand, tines facing up.) After cutting your meat, put the knife down, switch the fork to your right hand and spear the piece of meat. The United States is the only country that practices the American Style of eating.

Note: Either style is considered appropriate.

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Hor d'Oeuvres

  • Wait until hot hors d'oeuvres cool before eating and test it inconspicuously with your tongue.
  • Hold a napkin under your food when using a dipping sauce.
  • Don't shake hands when your fingers are dirty with dipping sauce.
  • Don't lick your fingers...use a napkin!
  • Don't swallow hors d'oeuvres whole.
  • Don't double dip!
  • If needed, turn your back from the guests and transfer the yucky food from your mouth into a cocktail napkin.
  • Search for a wastebasket. Don't leave a dirty napkin on a table.


  • Basket of bread or rolls is picked up, offered to the person on your left and passed to the right. Don't forget to help yourself.
  • Butter is offered the same way as the bread; place a tab on your bread plate. If there is no bread plate, place pat of butter on top of left hand corner of dinner plate.
  • Butter bread as you eat it; avoid "buttering ahead!"
  • Break rolls in half; it is not polite to cut rolls.


  • Do not slurp from a spoon. Spoon the food away from you when you take it out of the bowl and sip it from the side of the spoon. If your soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools; do not blow on it.
  • Do not pick up the bowl to sip the soup.
  • If you're using a Soup Cup, eat the food in the soup until all the food has been consumed. You may pick up the cup to sip the remaining liquid.
  • Stir the soup gently.
  • Do not blow on the soup.
  • Do not leave the spoon in your soup bowl. Place the spoon on the soup dish once complete.


  • Cut large pieces of lettuce with a fork or knife and fork.
  • Cut enough for two or three mouthfuls, eat them, then cut more.
  • If lettuce leaves fall, just pick them up and put them back on the plate.
  • Cherry tomatoes are tiny, but they can squirt! If it is small, carefully poke the tomato and put into your mouth. If it is large, carefully spike the tomato and slice in half.
  • Dab any dressing stains with your napkin, then leave it alone.

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Adding Sauces and spices can be impolite.

  • Trust your host/chef's culinary talents. Asking for more sauce may be an insult to the host/chef's cooking.
  • Always treat the salt and pepper as a couple.

Tasting other people's food.

  • Informally with friend, you may exchange small portions.
  • Do not refrain from ordering a course in hopes to just sample everyone else's dish.
  • Ask for clean plates, forks, and spoons to transfer and eat other food.
  • Do not exchange food after everyone has begun eating (hygiene.)

Taking a break from eating.

  • When you have paused in eating (but are not finished), lay your fork (tines down) and knife on the left side of the plate; angle the fork and knife away from the outside of the plate.
  • When you are not eating, keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrist on edge of the table.)
  • Elbows may rest gently on the edge of the table between courses, but not while you're eating.

When you're done eating:

  • When you are done eating, place your fork (tines down) and knife next to each other on the right side of the plate. Place the knife to the right of the fork, with the knife blade facing the fork.

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  • Is most comfortable when enjoyed Continental style.
  • Pie or cake a 'la mode is eaten with a fork and spoon. Fork in the right hand, spoon in the left.
  • Berries or any cut-up fruit is eaten with a fork and spoon.
  • Ice cream, puddings, and custards are eaten with a spoon only.

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When you are on a diet...

  • Serve yourself foods that you may eat, and skip the rest.
  • If you are brought a fattening dessert, take your fork and push it around a bit on the plate.

Medical Restrictions/Vegan/Vegetarian

  • Talk with your host prior to the food event. Bringing this issue up for the first time at the dinner event forces your host to prepare a special meal for you.
  • Offer to eat your own meal at home.
  • When ordering, ask your server any questions you may have. Don't spend the entire meal picking tentatively at your food because you ordered something you are allergic to or don't like.

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  • As consideration for others: do not point out someone not following etiquette rules. Everyone should feel comfortable, so don't put someone in the spotlight.
  • As a guest, if you are unsure of proper etiquette for a meal, look at the host. Follow his/her lead.
  • Don't talk with food in your mouth.
  • Don't wave silverware around when talking.
  • Don't push your plate when you are finished.
  • Don't put liquid in your mouth if you already have food in your mouth.
  • Don't cut up your entire piece of meat at once. Cut one or two bites at a time.
  • Don't put more food on your utensil than one bite full.
  • Don't wear excessive lipstick.
  • Don't wipe the tableware in a restaurant. Ask for new ones.

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Spills & Stains

  • Pick up solid foods with the blade of your knife or a clean spoon.
  • Dab water with a corner of your napkin on a stain.
  • Don't add embarrassment by calling attention to the accident.
  • Do offer to pay for a stain on someone else's clothing.
  • Relax, make a quick joke...but don't make your spill the center of the meal.

Coughs, Sneezes & Blowing your Nose

  • Excuse yourself from the table to blow your nose.
  • Do not use your napkin to blow your nose
  • Wash your hands before returning to the table.

Bugs, Hair & Non-Edibles

  • Remove the objects without calling attention to them, and continue eating.
  • You may quietly point out the critter to your waiter and ask for a replacement dish.
  • Remove any objects from your mouth and place it at the edge of your plate.

Removing Food from the Mouth

  • Remove food from the mouth in the manner in which it is put into the mouth.
  • Remove fish bones with your fingers.
  • Cover you mouth with one hand, remove food with the other hand.
  • Do not use a toothpick at the dinner table.
  • Wait to remove food from the teeth.

Elbows, Reaching

  • During your meal, do not put your elbows on the table.
  • In the interest of hearing conversation, you may lean your forearms on the edge of the table.
  • Only reach for items that are close enough in one fluid motion.
  • If you are unable to reach an item, ask a guest to pass it to you.

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  • Stand in line. No butting in or swimming against the tide to speed your journey through. Think of it as a great time to chat with the people in line and establish contacts.
  • Never complain about the line, the food or the wait. Others don't need you to put a damper on their enjoyment of the event.
  • Use serving utensils when you help yourself. Fingers do not count as serving utensils.
  • Never ever take anything from a serving plate and stick it directly into your mouth. Nor should you start eating from your plate while still in line. Wait until you return to your table.
  • You can return several times (more opportunities to meet more people!) but never fill your plate to overflowing.
  • Try to eat your courses in some acceptable order. It's unappetizing for others to look at a plate filled with oysters, salad, roast beef and chocolate mousse all at the same time.
  • Because this is a buffet, do not turn this into an "all you can eat" occasion. Nor should you spout off on how to get 'the most bang for your bucks' by only selecting those items like lobster or filet that are normally very expensive on an a la carte menu.

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One out of three men and women sabotage their success because of inadequate preparation or these avoidable business etiquette mistakes. Remember that any business dining experience is never about the food; it is always about the business.

Twenty Most Common Etiquette Mistakes
Sloppy written materials Extreme nervousness
No advance preparation Exaggeration or inconsistency
Inappropriate dress Dishonesty
Unprofessional image Lack of self-confidence
Late arrival Inability to communicate strengths & skills
Negative or indifferent attitude Profanity, sexist or racist language
Limp or overly aggressive handshake Arrogance or rude behavior
Poor eye contact Embarrassing dining skills
Negative body language Lack of career direction
Inappropriate conversational topics Failure to follow up

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Baldridge, Letitia. The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette: A Guide to Contemporary Living. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1978.

Craig, Elizabeth. Don't Slurp Your Soup: A Basic Guide to Business Etiquette. New Brighton, Minnesota: Brighton Publications, 1991.

Post, Peggy. Everyday Etiquette: Practical advice for social situations at home and on the job. New York, New York: Harper Collins, 1999.

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Use keywords: etiquette; table manners; table etiquette; dining etiquette.

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