The Interview Lunch
What to say * What to ask * What to eat
By Robin Ogden
You’ve made it through the first couple hours of your interview and you’re feeling pretty strong. You’re glad that you took the time to focus on behavioral questions during your interview preparation and are confident your answers were well received. At last it’s time for lunch and you head out the door with two of those nice people from human resources.
Ahhh…now you can relax, right? Wrong!
It is important to remember that even during lunch you are definitely still being interviewed.
If you’re a job seeker the “lunch interview” can be tricky. This is the time that the employer is able to check out your social skills, table manners and your ability to conduct normal conversation on the fly. This is raw interviewing, the kind you don’t really get to practice since the conversation tends to flow from subject to subject, in a more relaxed format vs. focusing on a specific job description.
There are a number of subjects that may be discussed during lunch.
You may talk about companies you used to work for, your family, hobbies, travel, jokes, or a number of other things. These everyday discussion topics enable the employer to find out a lot more about how you function and feel about many things in your life, both positive and negative. And you’ll want to be extra careful, often these conversations can lead to something you may have chosen to “leave off” of your resume.
Your table manners could be extremely important.
Your table manners could be extremely important to the employer if you will be placed in a customer facing position or interfacing regularly with various groups/departments inside the company. So it behooves the employer to check out your social graces. They will be watching the way you interface with the wait staff. Are you kind, polite or indifferent? Do you know how to use your place setting? Do you wait until others are served before you begin eating? Do you speak with your mouth full (ouch…). These may all seem to be simple things, but remember if you’re rude to wait staff or have foul food manners it will tell the employer how you will project yourself to others within their organization and to their customers.
Bottom line, stay on your toes and stick to your interview skills during the lunch interview. Don’t forget it is part of the interview process. You’re not off the burner yet.
Here are a few job interviewing tips to help you make it through dessert!
- Who pays? The interviewer will pay for the lunch. You don’t need to offer to pitch in or pay.
- Confused about your place setting? Here’s a quick rule to remember: drink from the right and eat from the left. In other words, your bread plate and fork are always to the left and your water glass is to your right.
- What should you order? Stick with items that are easy to eat (this means stay away from ribs or long twirling pastas). Fork and knife foods are best, not finger food.
- No brainer basics: If finger food is served never put your fingers in your mouth or lick food or sauce off of them. Do not speak with your mouth full of food. Eat slowly, listen and use good eye contact. Do not drink alcoholic beverages during an interview. Make sure your napkin goes into your lap shortly after taking your seat. Let the interviewer guide seating. If they motion you to choose the seat then feel free to do so.
- Should you order dessert? If the interviewer orders dessert then feel free. Otherwise, I’d hold off.
- Should you ask questions? By all means. This is a great time for you to ask some of the questions you selected during your job interview preparation. This will keep the employer talking and help you find out if the company is a good match for you.
- What questions should you ask your potential employer? This can be a good time to find out how the interviewer would describe the companies personality and management style. What is the company’s philosophy on promotion from within? Why does the interviewer enjoy working for the company? What are characteristics of successful people at the company?
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