The Lunch or Dinner Interview

So, you’ve been invited to a job interview at a restaurant for lunch or dinner.  This is not unusual, and might be a way for the interviewer to save time by getting two things done at once.  It also might be a way to see if you’ll make one of the fundamental mistakes that people make during meal interviews.  Check out these tips to help you succeed in your lunch or dinner interview.

Avoid messy food items

An egg salad sandwich can look appetizing when you’re hungry.  However, the last thing you want to do is ruin your chances for a good job by chowing down on a food item that is going to make a mess.  Eschew the ribs, corn on the cob, or sloppy Joe sandwich for something simpler.

No soup for you!

I still laugh when I watch those old Seinfeld episodes where the guy says, “No soup for you!”  What you may not know is that he’s also speaking to you.  When you’re in a meal interview, it is usually a good idea to avoid the soup, if possible.  Eating soup typically leads to annoying slurping sounds, unless you’re extremely careful.  Plus, soup can splash and make a stain on your nice interview outfit.

Paying the price

In most cases, it is reasonable to assume that the interviewer will pick up the check at the end of the meal.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to stick to reasonably priced items from the menu.  By all means, do not go crazy and order the lobster and the expensive wine!  A fancy meal isn’t worth the bad impression you’ll leave with the interviewer.

Mind your manners

If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you might have become an expert at TV dinners and microwave cuisine.  That’s all fine and good, but for the lunch or dinner interview, you’ll need to review essential table manners:  Napkin goes on the lap, elbows off the table, and take small bites (no matter how hungry you are).  Also, as your mother probably told you a hundred times, don’t talk with your mouth full!

A little courtesy goes a long way

Don’t overdo it, but show courtesy toward everyone involved in the meal.  Thank the interviewer before and after the meal.  Use “excuse me,” “please,” and “thank you” whenever appropriate with the host/hostess and waiter/waitress.  Deliver these with eye contact and a smile.  Trust me—the interviewer will notice these things.

Come hungry — but not starving

It’s understood that a meal is a time for eating, and it’s okay to come to the interview meal hungry.  Yet there’s a big difference between hungry and really hungry, and if you haven’t eaten all day, it’s going to show during the meal.  You’ll get impatient, complain about how long you’re having to wait for the food to arrive, and take big bites of your food.  So, don’t make that basic mistake.

Act like you’re on a first date

Treat a meal interview more like a first date, and less like an evening out with your friends.  Think about the words that describe first-date behavior:  polite, cautious, and friendly.  These are the attributes of a successful job candidate at a lunch or dinner interview.

In addition to all of the foregoing, the best advice I can give you is to enjoy the experience.  Good food and good company are meant to be enjoyed, after all.  The worst that can happen is you’ll get a meal out of this.  The best that can happen?  You’ll find yourself with a great job and a lasting career.  Salud!