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Etiquette Tip of the Week: Gastrointestinal turmoil for job candidates

Jul 31, 2013

A group interview for a large financial firm was held at a posh restaurant. One of the interviewers handed the wine list to a candidate and said, “Order for the table.”

This test has caused gastrointestinal turmoil for countless job candidates, but the rules to acing it are simple:
1) Select a wine that is moderately priced. Do not pick the cheapest (which shows you might not have good taste) or the most expensive (which shows you might run up the expense account.)

2) Do not spout off about your wine expertise. This shows you are pretentious and trying to one-up others: an unpleasant character flaw in a co-worker or new report.

3) Do not shake it, if you can fake it. If you do not know the first thing about wine, present the wine list to the wine steward, discreetly point to a price point and say, “I would like something from this area.” The rest of the table need not know if you are referring to the Rhone Valley in France… or $42. Most wine stewards recognize this as code for, “I don’t know beans about wine, so please pick out something from this price point that will make me look good.”

If you are not a consumer of alcohol, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t drink alcohol, so I must pass this on to someone more qualified,” then hand the wine list to the person next to you or back to the interviewer. No further explanation is required.

You do not have to be interviewing for a large financial firm to be put in this situation — there are a number of occasions in business dining where it might come up. Stick to these rules and you will be fine.