A lunch interview is just what it sounds like, an interview that occurs during lunch. Managers often choose lunch interviews when they are particularly busy and need to find time to fit the interview into their schedule.
Usually the interviewer picks the restaurant and just tells you where it is, but if you are asked, it’s acceptable to give your preference. It rarely happens, but if you are asked to find the restaurant, ask the interviewer if he has a preference of cuisines, and then look for a nice business casual restaurant without a lot of background noise. In all instances, the interviewer should pay for the lunch. It doesn’t hurt to make sure you have the cash to cover your selection, but if you are asked to pay for your lunch, recognize that this is not the company you want to work for.
You will need to prepare for the lunch interview just like any other interview. Research the company, look up some questions you may be asked and practice your answers. However, because the interview takes place at lunch, there are some very specific dos and don’ts that should be followed.
What to Do
- Research the restaurant and know what you’re going to order before you walk in.
- Pick an order that you can eat neatly with utensils, especially as opposed to anything you eat with your fingers.
- Keep your menu choice simple and middle-of-the-road in terms of price.
- Ask the interviewer for recommendations of something good or follow his example if you are still a little undecided when you arrive at the restaurant.
- Get to the restaurant early and simply wait up front.
- Brush up on table manners! This cannot be emphasized enough. The whole point of the meeting is the interview, which means the last thing you want is for the interviewer to be focusing on your bad table manners instead of what you’re saying.
Some Things to Review Ahead of Time
- Know which fork to use.
- Know which empty glass is yours.
- Know which is your soup spoon.
- Know all your basic table manners, such as keeping your elbows off the table and how to place your napkin on the table when you are done eating.
- Be prepared for some small talk. Usually lunch time interviews don’t really get started until after the course is served and, in most instances, may not start until the meal is finished. You will need to fill up this time, but let the interviewer take the lead in terms of topics.
- When you order a drink, select something plain. This may include ice tea, sparkling water or a cola. Keep it simple and non-alcoholic.
- Always be polite and gracious towards the wait staff. If there’s an issue with your food, overlook it. If there’s a large issue or something that you cannot ignore (like a bug in your dinner), simply return the food politely but don’t ask for anything in return.
- Do let the interviewer know you have papers, but don’t hand them over until asked. Bring papers in a portfolio or something that will keep them clean from spills and such.
- Always thank the interviewer, not just for the interview but for the lunch.
- If you need to give yourself a minute to think while you are answering, it’s OK to take a small bite of food and chew for a second prior to answering. Don’t do this too often though as it can start to look defensive.
- Turn off your cell phone and all other electronics. Don’t even glance at them while you are eating.
- Bring a small notepad that you can use to take notes, if needed, while eating. It should be small enough to fit between your plate and the plate of the person sitting next to you.
What Not to Do
- Don’t talk politics, religion or any other “sensitive” topics. Small talk could be local news, headline events, sports or anything inoffensive. If you do talk sports, keep the tone non-combative! This is not the time to show how much you really hate fans of your rival team.
- Never, ever talk with your mouth full. Your interviewer does not really want to see what you are eating as you are eating it.
- Do not wait at the bar for the interviewer to arrive. Simply wait up near the hostess station for the interviewer to arrive.
- Do not drink any alcohol. If the interviewer does have an alcoholic drink or if the interviewer offers you a drink, it’s best to decline and stick to something soft.
- Don’t drink straight from the bottle. Do not use a straw to drink out of the bottle. It’s best to pour your beverage into your glass before drinking and sip from there.
- Don’t start eating until everyone is served and all are ready to eat. If your food is delivered a little late, you should encourage others to start eating without you.
- Don’t pick the sloppiest item on the menu, the smelliest item, or any other “est” that might make the food difficult to eat or that might make the interviewer uncomfortable with what you’ve chosen.
- Don’t fuss with the server. Don’t ask lots of questions or be picky about what you’re ordering. Keep it simple.
- Don’t order dessert unless the interviewer does.
- Don’t ever ask for a doggy bag. You should have only ordered what you would eat to begin with and not anything extra.
The whole point of interviewing at lunch is that the food should never be the primary focus of the meeting. What the company needs and what you can offer in return should always be the primary focus. So, don’t allow the food or anything in the process of ordering, eating or clearing up the food get in the way of you showcasing how you are the best candidate for the position.
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List of the different interview types:
- The Video Interview
- The Informal Interview
- The Technical Interview
- The Phone Interview
- The Structured Interview
- The Scenario Interview
- The Assessment Event
- The Second Interview
- The Panel Interview
- The Lunch Interview
- The Group Interview
- The Behavioral Interview