Interview Etiquette

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  ( and parent of an SU student, has worked with Southwestern University for more than a decade, conducting the popular tradition of our annual dining and networking etiquette training over a four-course meal. 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

  • 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.