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As you prepare for an interview or start a new job, developing your business networking, dining and interpersonal skills is essential. 

The Business of Soft Skills in a Technical World

The Center for Career & Professional Development helps students build career management skills, among them professional dining etiquette. National etiquette expert Diane Gottsman (, founder of The Protocol School of Texas  (, has worked with Southwestern University for more than a decade, conducting the popular tradition of our annual Etiquette Dinner. Second interviews are routinely conducted over a meal, so Diane offers students step by step instruction on important dining skills, allowing them to feel more confident and professional at the table. A popular industry resource, Diane often says “If you think business and manners don’t mix, trying talking with your mouth full.”

Here are a few of Diane Gottsman’s tips:

  • Wear your nametag on the right side to follow the line of sight when you shake hands.
  • Stand for all introductions.
  • Smile and look directly into the other person’s eyes.
  • Extend your hand for a handshake. In the U.S., always aim to be the first one to reach out your hand.
  • Introduce yourself using your first and last name.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t hear or understand the other person’s name.
  • Exit a conversation with a handshake and a polite closing: “It was very nice meeting you. I look forward to seeing you again.”
Meeting and Greeting at Lunch
  • An introduction starts with your feet. Always stand up when someone approaches the table.
  • At a restaurant, avoid walking up to someone who appears to be engaged in serious conversation.
  • When you do greet someone at lunch, a handshake is always required and introduction of each guest must follow. Think twice before disrupting the lunch meeting.
  • Wait for your guests in the front lobby (not the bar).
Dining Etiquette Basics

*For many more details (and a delicious four-course meal), join us for our annual Etiquette Dinner! 

  • The table is set for the diner to use the utensils from the “outside-in”.
  • The bread plate is set on the left, and drink is on the right.
  • Wait for the host to place the napkin on his/her lap before doing so yourself.
  • Place your napkin on the chair when leaving the table temporarily.
  • Decline the offer of an alcoholic beverage.
  • A toast does not require a “clink”.
  • “Spoon away” from the body when eating soup.
  • Rest soup spoon on a saucer, behind the bowl, between sips.
  • Pass salt and pepper to the right, counterclockwise.
  • Remove gristle, bone and foreign objects from your mouth with your index finger and thumb.
  • Cough and sneeze towards the left shoulder, covering your mouth with your left hand or napkin.
  • Cut one piece of meat at a time.
  • Avoid ordering spaghetti, as it is difficult to consume. Instead, order rigatoni or penne pasta.
  • Don’t use a spoon to twirl your spaghetti, as it forms a large mound.
  • Learn how to eat European Style for more efficiency and less noise.
  • Break apart, butter, and eat bread one piece at a time.
  • Follow the lead of the host when ordering coffee and dessert.
  • Allow the host to conclude the meal by following his/her lead of placing the napkin back on the table.
  • Write a handwritten thank you note and send within 24 hours.