Lunch interviews are arguably the most difficult to handle because you not only have to worry about your professionalism, but also your table manners. If you approach this situation as you would any other, however, you should be fine. Lunch interviews actually have a few advantages, especially since you can ponder a difficult question while you’re slowly chewing that final bite of salad. Your best bet is to follow the lead of your interviewer while watching your manners and maintaining eye contact as much as possible. Beyond that, here are a few tips for handling a lunch interview.
Wait In Front
If you arrive early before your interviewer, wait outside or near the front of the lobby. You don’t want to wait in the bar because he or she might miss you and you probably shouldn’t get a table first. If you know that there is a reservation, however, you should be okay with getting seated while you wait. Don’t order anything except for a glass of water and wait politely for your interviewer to arrive. Remember, this is a lunch interview and not a casual get-together with friends.
Choose Middle Price Range
Your prospective employer will pick up the tab on a lunch interview, but follow his or her lead in choosing something from the menu. If you’re invited to order first — which is common if you’re a woman and your interviewer is a man — choose something in the middle price range from the menu. As far as drinks, avoid ordering anything alcoholic unless your interviewer has ordered wine or a mixed drink. If alcohol affects you quickly, order something else regardless of what others are drinking.
Pick Easy Food
Another thing you should remember when handling a lunch interview is that you’ll be conversing for most of the meal. Don’t order anything that will cause you to chew loudly or that might make a mess. Sandwiches and soup are both good choices; salads are okay if you can eat it politely. Avoid pasta because it is difficult to eat while talking, and I would also avoid any finger foods except for sandwiches. Baked potatoes are good choices.
Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full
Start remembering all of the table manners your mother taught you while you were growing up. If you’re asked a question mid-bite, simply finish chewing and then answer when you’ve swallowed. Your interviewer has probably conducted other lunch interviews before and he knows that it can be difficult to mix eating with talking. Remember to put your napkin on your lap and to leave it on your chair if you have to use the restroom. And even if it’s offered by the waiter, always drink from your glass rather than through a straw.
Eat Your Food
Even if you’re too nervous to be hungry, always eat at least a quarter of the food on your plate. Don’t ask for a doggie bag, and don’t offer some of your food to others at the table. You don’t have to eat everything on your plate, however, and you don’t need to order dessert. If others want dessert or coffee after the meal, you can feel free to order whatever you’d like.
Make Small Talk
Don’t expect to jump right into the core of the interview as soon as you sit down at the table. Ask your interviewer how his day is going, how his family is and whether he has any plans for the weekend. Showing your personable side is always a plus during a lunch interview because you show the employer that you’ll work well with colleagues and clients. From there, take your interviewers lead.