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Be prepared for dinner interview - and take a pass on the onion soup

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Linda J. LernerLINDA J. LERNER | JOB DOC
Be prepared for dinner interview - and take a pass on the onion soup
By Linda J. Lerner  |  July 1, 2007

Q I am having a second interview with a company. I went to their offices and had the standard meetings with human resources and several people from the department where the opening is. This time they have invited me to have dinner with them. I have been told that for this interview at the restaurant my potential new boss will be there and also a member of human resources. I have not had the experience before of being interviewed during a meal and I really need some tips to get me through it. Is this a usual way to conduct a job interview?
A An old boss of mine used to say, when you have an interview over a meal don't eat onion soup. I remember thinking, I don't eat onion soup anyway but that wasn't the point.
His message was onion soup was particularly messy with its stringy cheese, thick soaking bread, dangling onions, and very high temperature.
So I recommend that you be selective about the type of food you order. You want to be able to chew and swallow and still keep up your end of the conversation.
Therefore you would avoid dishes such as spaghetti, soup, or pizza or foods like barbecued ribs that require you to pick them up.
If you are asked a question while you have a mouth full of food just motion for them to wait a few seconds while you chew instead of trying to speak. One of the issues that will come up during dinner which is much less of a problem at lunch is the subject of drinking.
Generally speaking it is best not to drink during the interview but having one glass of wine with dinner is certainly acceptable. This is not the case over lunch where the rule is do not order an alcoholic beverage. No after dinner cordials even if your hosts order them.
I often try to take the lead of my hosts when it comes to the number of courses one orders during dinner. Generally speaking, an appetizer or a salad before the entree is typical.
Order what you enjoy eating but try to avoid the most expensive item on the menu. I am not suggesting that you order the least expensive one either, just be aware of the general range at that restaurant. An interview over lunch can be much easier for some because of the obvious time constraints that dinner lacks.
Let the company representatives choose the place and make the reservations and then agree in advance exactly where you will meet them. This might sound like a minor point but it isn't. I have seen more anxious people who believed that they were being stood up when their party was already seated or waiting in a different location.
This is a social setting, but its purpose is clear. They have chosen to assess your abilities out of the office setting while learning more about you as a potential employee of their company.
Perhaps the job that you are applying for requires entertaining customers or potential clients. Although the restaurant is generally a social setting and may have a personal feel to it, you need to be prepared to get all of your business and professional ideas across during the dinner.
Have your resume folded in a pocket or purse just in case it is needed and be prepared to answer many of the standard job interview questions that are asked of you in an office.

Personal trainer should have a passion for work
Q I want to become a personal trainer. I work out at the gym almost every day and I love to exercise. I am an avid reader of books and other materials about wellness and fitness. I work full time in a department store selling rugs and carpeting and I am willing to go part time to pursue this type of work. How should I go about becoming one? What are the different sources of jobs? Are there good job opportunities for trainers?
A As you probably already know, becoming a personal trainer requires a lot more than loving to exercise. The really top-flight trainers need to be clear communicators, optimistic, very organized, deeply caring, and possess a motivating personality. The successful ones also have an ability to sell their services to grow their clientele.
In this profession, perhaps more than most, a real passion for the benefits of a healthy and physically active lifestyle is paramount. This strong passion is part of their daily work life as well as their personal belief system.
Professional preparation for a career as a trainer is a necessity. Such training is key to the success and effectiveness of a fitness professional. The types of training that are available depend on your level of education when you begin the training and which type of fitness professional you choose to become. Programs designed for college graduates are different from those offered to people without a degree.
The amount of time it takes to be trained can range from approximately six weeks to six months depending on which type of certification you desire and how much time you can invest in it. There are also colleges of physical education which offer related training as part of their degree program. Certification is essential to getting hired at most, if not all, gyms and health clubs. In fact many fitness facilities require both a bachelor's degree in a related field such as exercise physiology, sports medicine, or other athletic related fields and the additional certificates.
Certified fitness professionals can conduct individual fitness testing and evaluation, design and implement exercise programs, and conduct group classes. The deeper the education in the field, the better your chances are for landing a good job.
Here are examples of the types of certifications offered by the American Council on Exercise: Personal trainer, group fitness instructor, lifestyle and weight management consultant, and clinical exercise specialist. The ACE website states that it is the largest nonprofit fitness certification and education provider in the world. Their website is acefitness.org.
For long-distance learning, the National Council of Strength and Fitness provides for a program of home study in addition to their regular course offerings. Their highly informative website is ncsf.org. The actual exams taken to obtain a certification vary in length and content. I found a lot of helpful information about the tests and certificate descriptions on the website for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Their website is nsca-cc.org.
One of the premier organizations in the field is the National Academy of Sports Medicine; their website is nasm.org. Certification from this organization is particularly sought after by some of the top-rated sports and fitness clubs. They provide a full range of coursework and certification options.
Personal trainers primarily work as either employees of a facility such as a gym or a health club or on their own as one-on-one trainers to individuals in their homes. The pay for personal trainers who work at a gym ranges from $20 to $25 an hour at the beginning level to a high of $50 to $60 an hour. The client actually pays the health club a fee that is 40 to 50 percent higher than the amount the trainer is paid. The club's cut of the fee is intended to cover all related expenses such as supplying the equipment, the facility, and marketing of the services, etc.
In the early stages of one's career as a personal trainer the hours you work tend to be very long. Most people prefer to work out in the early morning or after work at night and you need to be there to take advantage of those opportunities. Only after a trainer's reputation and number of clients has grown do they have more flexibility in setting their hours at the club or other facility.
The self-employed trainer on the other hand usually charges a minimum of $50 an hour for a session in the person's home and that can range up to $100 to $125 an hour for highly skilled and sought after trainers. One of the disadvantages that the in-home personal trainers have is their need to travel varying distances between client's homes. This is unproductive time and they face problems of traffic and parking throughout their day. The independent trainer also needs to do his or her own detailed bookkeeping, scheduling, and billing. On the plus side, the self-employed trainer can determine his or her own hours and work a flexible schedule making it especially attractive to those who need this for family responsibilities.
The health club trainer has a captive audience of potential clients but can sit around for hours at times waiting for someone who requests their services. Those with great interpersonal skills, who have their first, often free, session with a client at the club, can then grow it into an ongoing relationship where both parties have the advantage of advance scheduling and familiarity.
Highly trained fitness professionals can choose to specialize and work with specific populations such as people who are pregnant, diabetic, or hypertensive. Others specialize in sports related assignments and work with competitive athletes. A growing area for trainers is working with the increasing number of older people amid an aging population.
As fitness and health matters continue to be in the headlines, so does the fitness professional see strong growth. Job opportunities are generally quite good for the certified trainer but vary somewhat depending on where you live and how far you are willing to travel.
Linda J. Lerner is an executive coach and a human resources consultant to small businesses and individuals. You can contact Linda here. E-mail questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or mail to Job Doc, Boston Globe, Box 55819, Boston, 02205-5819.
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Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2008 10:16