Would you like fries or a salad with your entree? How about a refill on your iced tea? These are not the type of questions you would typically be asked during a job interview, but in the case of a lunch interview, you can expect to hear them alongside “Tell me a little bit about yourself” and “What is your biggest weakness?” While you shouldn’t expect a lunch interview in your job search, they are common enough that you should know how to navigate them. Let’s tackle a few of the most commonly asked questions people have about these types of interviews:
Is there any special prep I should do for a lunch interview?
Despite the rolls and napkins, a lunch interview is still an interview, and your hirability will be judged on how you answer standard interview questions. In other words: prep like you would for any interview. Prepare to answer questions, work on your body language, etc.
With that said, there are a few additional items you should focus on, namely the ambient noise you can expect in the restaurant. Try running through your answers with the TV or a podcast on in the background, as it will help prepare you to make your answers clear through the background noise, and be ready for distracting conversations that may be going on around you.
In addition to prepping for the noise, take a minute to check the menu so you can be ready to order by the time you sit down for the meal. The last thing you want to do is to dedicate valuable brain energy towards picking out an entrée at the table.
Speaking of eating, what should I order?
Picking an entrée for your lunch interview isn’t so much about deciding what you want to eat as it is about ordering something that won’t get in the way of a conversation. Unfortunately, this may mean putting your inner-foodie aside for the meal and instead going with something clean and simple. Generally, you want to stay away from items that are a mess to eat, or really anything that is going to become a distraction. The restaurant may have a killer pulled pork sandwich with house made slaw (EDITOR NOTE: yum!), but considering that the sauce is going to get everywhere, we would not recommend ordering it.
Same goes with anything generally dripping with sauce, like spaghetti or curry (a quick reminder to also not order anything that may hurt your stomach). Generally go with items that can be eaten easily with a knife and fork, and won’t take too long to chew.
Can I order alcohol? Also, follow up: should I order alcohol if the interviewer does?
No and no. While your hiring manager may be okay with you having a drink over lunch, just one drink can alter your speech pattern and demeanor, so with an abundance of caution, stick with non-alcoholic stuff. Stay focused on your goal here – landing that dream job.
What should I watch out for that is specific to a lunch interview?
Three words: Mind your manners!
Yes, every adult who told you to sit up in your chair and take your elbows off the table was giving you excellent lunch interview advice. Same goes for putting your napkin on your lap, so unless you are having an interview at a crab boil (and if you are… we have questions), the napkin goes on your lap, not as a bib.
Most importantly, don’t talk with your mouth full (we can’t stress this enough!). It doesn’t matter if you are acing the interview up to that point, if you start talking with a still-to-be-fully-chewed glob of food in your mouth, it’s hard to recover from that. If you happen to take a bite when a question is asked, politely motion to the Hiring Manager to give you a second until you are done chewing.
What about the check?
The Hiring Manager is going to pick up the check (it’s a business expense), so there is no need to offer to pay. Just make sure that, in addition to thanking them for the interview, thank them for the meal as well.
So to sum it all up: it’s a regular interview, but with food. If you use some simple common sense, you will find that your lunch interview will go smoothly.