The lunch interview is becoming increasingly popular among businesses that are looking to put candidates more at ease. The ultimate goal of this tactic is to receive a better understanding of the candidate and not simply what he or she chooses to display in a more formal interview setting.
If you were asked on a lunch interview you must keep in mind the added obstacles and potential pitfalls involved in this format. Just because the atmosphere will be slightly more relaxed does not mean that you can afford to be. At that lunch table will be the interviewers, key employees, human resource representatives, and even some future bosses. You certainly do not want to make a fool of yourself in such a situation.
There is a move currently among employers to assess potential employees outside the formal confines of the traditional interview setting. Their belief is that an interview given in an unorthodox manner will reveal more of the candidates true personality and character. Often times this tactic works and has probably cost a few candidates a job because they came ill prepared.
Etiquette at the Restaurant During the Lunch Interview
While you will certainly need to follow proper interviewing etiquette you will also have to follow proper table manners. This means no elbows on the table and you should try to resist the urge to slurp your soup.
Order food that is simple to eat and that requires little effort. This generally means that a messy pasta dish is out of the question as well as a rack of spare ribs. You must keep in mind the company at the table. The lunch interview is not a Sunday picnic with your family. There is a job riding on how well you perform during lunch. With that in mind make sure to keep your conversation professional and focused on the position you are applying for. While others at the table may derail the conversation into other areas resist the urge to get too involved and instead ask questions about the company and the position you are seeking.
Do not by any means become involved in heated discussions about politics and religion. Again you are at the lunch for an interview and not to participate in a round table debate. Keep your demeanor professional and your responses polite and courteous. Try to focus on the business at hand instead of the side roads the conservations take.
You will also want to avoid complaining about the restaurant, the food, and the wait staff. During the entire lunch interview you are going to be evaluated by those at the table even if it might seem otherwise. If you happen to find a hair in your soup avoid making a scene and handle the situation in a calm and civil manner. You will earn a certain amount of respect for how you handle unforeseen setbacks and the manner in which you treat others.
If you are not happy with the food avoid talking about how dry or tough it is. Instead eat the meal with a smile on your face and focus on the interview. The primary reason you are at the table is to gain a job not to have a tasty lunch. Above all else avoid alcohol during the lunch. Even if the most senior official at the table his quenching his thirst with a beer does not mean that you should imbibe.
Other Points to Consider During the Lunch Interview
Even if you are unsure of proper table top etiquette just use your common sense and eat your meal as if it was a dinner at Grandma’s.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Eat with the left, and drink to the right.
- Maintain eye contact while speaking.
- Put your utensils down between bites.
Having a successful lunch interview will demonstrate your ability to have grace under pressure. The interviewers will be able to see a slightly more relaxed version of you and in turn you will be able to see a relaxed version of your potential employers.
By following proper interview and dining etiquette you should not have any problems with the lunch interview.
Adapted From The Everything Job Interview Book, 2nd Edition by Joy Darlington and Nancy Schuman, Copyright © 2008, 2001 by F W Media, Inc., published by Adams Media, a division of F W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.