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3 Reasons Why Table Manners Matter to Prospective Employers

Recruiting season is on its way on at business school and university campuses nationwide, and as candidates go through the process, formal and semi-formal dining events are sure to be involved. I often hear complaints from clients who are unsure about the true purpose of a recruiting dinner; and I hear about individuals who mistakenly let their guard their down to the detriment of what they are trying to accomplish, which is to impress an employer and ultimately land a job. Here are three reasons why table manners definitely matter during recruiting (or any networking event of any kind for that matter) and what employers are watching out for.

Why Table Manners Matter (Photo: Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)

Employers are testing your trustworthiness
It doesn’t matter if the job you are pursuing is a front-office position or not, at some point, your employer may have to put you in front of a client, or in front of a high-ranking internal executive. Your table manners say plenty about how you would function in a more formal and tense environment, and your prospective employer wants to be sure that he can leave you alone in such an environment. These are the types of situations where your level of politeness and respect can determine the success or failure of a coming pitch or new business idea.

Can you exercise patience and restraint?
Your temperament at a recruiting dinner demonstrates your ability to show patience and control. Employers hold recruiting dinner events to test how you manage moderation in your approach to food and whether you will apply good judgment in how much alcohol you consume. Showing your employer that you know when to say “no” bodes well for your prospects of landing a full-time offer.

Your dinner behavior indicates how well you play with others
Do you wait until everyone has been served before you start to eat? Do you ask for people to pass the butter rather than rudely reaching for it with your elbows pointed in your seatmate’s face? Do you chew with your mouth open? Your table manners indicate your level of respect, sensitivity, and awareness of others—traits that employers are valuing more so than in years past. Do yourself a favor and brush up on table etiquette and put it into practice the next time you have the opportunity to do so. Please do not be one of the many professionals and executives I continue to work with who get these basic social graces wrong.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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