Lunch Interviews – They’re NOT About the Food

Photo credit: Oliteratico

You’ve done your job research.  You polished your resume, attended the career fair, applied online and followed up with the recruiter.  You may have already received a call from the recruiter to set up an interview and that interview may have gone perfectly.  You expect that they’re going to offer you the job, when the voice on the other end of the line says, “I’m pleased to inform you that you’ve moved on to the next round of interviews.”  WHAT??  They then tell you that the next interview is over lunch.  GULP.

For recruiters or hiring managers, the lunch interview gives them additional perspective and insight into the “real you”.  People can memorize GREAT answers to the toughest interview questions; having a phenomenal resume, even appearing to have excellent communication skills can only get you so far.  The lunch interview (or dinner – whatever) puts you to the test.

It’s designed for two reasons:

  1. To allow the recruiter or hiring manager to get to know you on a more personal level.
  2. To see how you react to situations out of your comfort zone or element.  You’re not in the office conference room with the interviewer or a panel.  You’re in a much different setting with all kinds of variables to throw you off your game.

A few tips to help you make the most of your lunch:

  • Bring a notepad and something to write with – just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking notes
  • Be polite to the host, wait staff, ANYONE you interact with at the restaurant – people are watching and listening.  I’ve even known hiring managers to arrive late and ask the staff about their interaction just to test the candidate.  NOTE: Wait for the interviewer to arrive before being seated.
  • Know before you go – check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time.  Most are online these days.  If you have dietary restrictions or are watching calories, you’ll have plenty of time to pour over the menu.  Select 2-3 (just in case the restaurant doesn’t have one) choices that look good and keep them in mind when ordering.  Be prepared and KNOW what you want – this should make a good impression.
  • Order something simple – the point is to land the job.  You can order the rack of ribs during your celebration dinner afterwards.  Stick to things that can be eaten easily with a knife and fork.  I’d also recommend water or other non-alcoholic beverages.  If the host orders wine, politely decline.  Now, if this interview is for a wine or spirits company, there’s a difference.  Take your cue from your host.  Just don’t order the most expensive bottle.  Stick to the middle and to one glass.

Emily Post’s Guide to Etiquette still applies today.  Check out this website for more information on which fork to use, what all the different plates are used for, and basic tips like how to pass the bread, which hand to use for your drink (yes, there is a right way) and much more.

Relax, be yourself, and don’t forget, it’s still an interview.  Now, go land that job!

This post was originally created for Rich DeMatteo’s blog, Corn On the Job.  Click here to visit his site – there’s a lot of great stuff there, too!


3 thoughts on “Lunch Interviews – They’re NOT About the Food

  1. This is great advice! There are so many different kinds of interview situations these days, it can be daunting for candidates to prepare for each one. Really though, as long as candidates focus on the content of the interview, they should be good.


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