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home : columns : dear harriette November 20, 2018

2/27/2018 8:11:00 AM
Job-seeking reader questions interview attire

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an interview coming up at a restaurant where I have applied to be a host. What do you think is the appropriate attire to wear to this interview? Usually I would dress in business casual to an interview, but because the restaurant is casual and I am interviewing for the position of host, I'm not sure if wearing a suit and tie is appropriate. Are there different places or occasions where casual dress is better to wear than going formal? -- What to Wear, Syracuse, New York

DEAR WHAT TO WEAR: This is tricky. On one hand, a suit and tie is the classic interview outfit, but if everyone is wearing jeans and T-shirts at this restaurant, you will stand out as not being aware of the restaurant's style if you dress too formally.  

So, what to wear? I think a jacket is smart to put over a shirt with trousers, preferably not jeans. You don't need to wear a tie. The shirt can be a dress shirt or even a dressy T-shirt -- as long as the jacket is professional-looking. Shoes should be just that -- shoes, not sneakers, even if you will never wear shoes if you get the job.  

More than your attire, bring a winning personality and clarity about your skills to show that you would add value to the restaurant.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an upcoming black-tie fundraiser for my company. I will be attending with my long-term boyfriend as my guest. This will be the first black-tie event he and I will be attending together. I have been thinking about my boyfriend's etiquette recently, and how he will act at this event. He is polite and courteous when he meets people, but the issue is his table manners. His manners don't bother me because I have become accustomed to them, but I know other people notice the way he holds his knife and fork, or the fact that he often doesn't wait for everyone to get their meal before he starts. I can't blame him for this because it was what he was taught growing up, but I want to bring it up in a non-condescending way to prepare him for our upcoming event. -- Table Manners, Chicago

DEAR TABLE MANNERS: Since this is the first black-tie for both of you, take the approach that you both should brush up on the rules of the table at such an event. You can point out that you learned at work that people notice when you follow the "rules" and when you don't. Suggest to your boyfriend that the two of you review the basics of how to eat at a formal table together, so that you both get it right. General rules include waiting to begin eating until all are served, using utensils starting from the outside in, putting your napkin in your lap, chewing with your mouth closed, not talking with food in your mouth, not reaching across people for items on the table and putting away your smartphone. For a diagram of a formal table setting, go to

You should also review the basics of being at a business event. This includes handling small talk when you arrive, working on short statements that define who you are, which you can share as you talk to people. For more ideas, go to

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