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Eating Out: Spicing Up Recruiting Dinners

With recruiting season well underway, most of us have had to face the recruiting-related dinner (pre-interview or, even better, sell dinners!). My approach to these dinners is usually one of mixed emotions. On one hand, they are an opportunity to try out some of Boston’s finer dining establishments, especially given the lowly student budget. On the other hand, recruiting dinners involve the pressure of making a good impression on an employer. Can this dining/interviewing experience actually be enjoyable? With these strategies, I believe it can.

Soak up the atmosphere.
Recruiting-related dinners are a great way to scope out potential restaurant ideas for that special occasion. Whether a romantic night out or entertaining visiting family or friends or just a blow-out meal, recruiting dinners can be a great way to test drive a restaurant. Is the service attentive yet not intrusive? Is the atmosphere conducive to having a meaningful conversation? It’s a pretty safe bet that if you’ve enjoyed the food, service and vibe of the restaurant during a high-stress recruiting dinner, you’ll enjoy it even more in a relaxed scenario.

Read up about the restaurant.
This can be a useful exercise for two reasons. First, you can learn something about the restaurant (for example, that it has a killer dessert menu), which may actually get you excited about eating there. Second, if you have allergies or dietary restrictions, the restaurant will be able to accommodate you better if you let them or the recruiter know in advance.

Try something new.
When ordering, live it up a little and try something new. For example, during cocktails, instead of ordering your usual, try something new. Always wanted to try a Negroni? Go for it. Curious as to what a Pinot Gris tastes like? Now is as good a time as any to sample one. This philosophy also applies to ordering food. Try bison, instead of beef. Opt for guinea or squab instead of chicken. Obviously you shouldn’t engage in wild experimentation because the last thing you want is to become deathly ill and make an impression for all the wrong reasons. However, live a little and use this as an opportunity to try something you’ve always been meaning to instead of the usual.

Use the restaurant itself as a topic for small talk.
This is a great way to make conversation and talk about something other than why you want to work at Company XYZ. This is also an excellent way to identify fellow foodies. Ask about their favorite restaurants and foods. Share memories about the great meals in exotic locales you’ve experienced. Or just talk about food trends in general. For example, how organic foods are becoming more and more popular or how the hot, new restaurant trend is toward smaller plates and tapas-style sharing.

Order dessert.
Whether it be as simple as ice cream or as complex as an apple financier with a cinnamon pot de crŠme, order dessert so you don’t skip out on the best part of the meal. Consider it your reward for making it through another recruiting-related dinner. And if that still doesn’t convince you, then order one and send it over my way.

Happy dining and good luck!

February 13, 2006
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