When on a job interview, it’s usually safest to follow the lead of your host. The interviewer is often sussing out if the candidate is a “fit” for the job. You want to show that you will fit in well with the established culture of the company.
And an easy way to develop quick rapport is to mirror the other person. People tend to trust people who are similar to themselves. If you act like they do, it puts them at ease. And when people are comfortable, the conversation will run more smoothly.
So, if your host orders a 3 course meal with dessert and coffee afterwards, it’s safe to order the same. If they order an appetizer, order one too. You want to be eating, or at least appear to be, when they are eating. It’s often awkward to be eating while the other person is not.
Similarly, even if you are starving and they only order a salad, stick with something lighter. You don’t want to be too focused on finishing your meal when they are done with theirs, and are focused only on asking you questions. Now is not the time to order the most expensive item on the menu, if they are only ordering the soup.
I’m a vegetarian, so I’m not about to order a steak just because my interviewer is. However, if they order the steak, I’ll try to order something more substantial.
Interviewers may suggest an interview out of the office, to catch you with your guard down. Remember this is an interview. Eat a bit before hand, so you can focus on answering the questions, and not on the food. And don’t come to the interview with a growling stomach. Eat slowly. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food.
It gets tricky if your host orders an alcoholic drink. In college, a friend of mine made a disastrous, and hilarious, mistake. He was on the final round with a fancy firm, for a prestigious position. A partner of the firm invited him to lunch. The interviewer order an Arnold Palmer, which is an iced-tea and lemonade mix. My friend, mistakenly thought it was an alcoholic drink, similar to a Long-Island ice-tea. He wanted to show that he was mature and could hang with the crowd. He ordered a gin and tonic.
The host kept getting refills of his Arnold Palmer, which is pretty typical with ice tea. And so my friend kept getting refills of his gin and tonic, which is not so typical. He got really drunk at lunch, and couldn’t drive himself home. The interviewer had to call him a cab. He did not get the offer.
So, if your host orders an alcoholic drink, it’s probably safest not to, and say you have to drive. If it’s a happy hour interview, stick to just ordering one, and only drink less than half.
This question originally appeared on Quora: What is a nice, safe choice for your meal when you are taken out on a job interview?