How to Handle the Lunchtime Interview

You’ve been invited to a job interview at a restaurant.  While it may feel like a pleasant change, don’t let your guard down.  Mealtime interviews can be dangerous.  There may be nachos and onion rings, but make no mistake; you are being evaluated.  Here are some tips that will help you navigate through the potential danger zones of the lunchtime interview:

Watch your manners.  Now is the time to do everything that your mother taught you.  Sit straight, keep your elbows off the table and don’t talk with your mouth full.  Most importantly, be polite to the waiters and waitresses.  Remember, the interviewer could be evaluating you on everything that you do.

Engage in conversation.  You need to be able to hold a conversation to be successful at a lunchtime interview.  Stay focused on the discussion and follow the interviewer’s lead.  If the interviewer talks about topics that are unrelated to the job, just go with it; they may be trying to assess your communication skills or to determine how you would fit in at their organization.

Order something light.    Remember, you’re not here for the food.  Your priority is to demonstrate that you are the best fit for the job.  Since you are at a restaurant, you do need to order something but choose a dish that is light and easy to eat so that you can stay focused on the task at hand.

Keep the drinking to a minimum.  Ideally, it is best to avoid any alcohol at a job interview, but you may find yourself in a situation where the interviewer orders a beer and encourages you to order one too.  If you are comfortable with it, go ahead and order just one, but make sure that you drink it slowly.   

Offer to pay but don’t insist.  You don’t want to assume that the employer is paying, but in most cases they probably will.  Take out your wallet when the bill comes but if they tell you to put it away, don’t argue with them.

If you think that a traditional interview is challenging, then watch out for the lunchtime interview.  A meal out with a potential employer can be a bit of a minefield.  If you don’t watch your step, your job prospect could disappear before you even take a bite of your salad.  Try to relax but never forget that you’re at job interview and it may end up being the most profitable lunch you’ve ever had!

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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