1. Why do employers have interviews over lunch?
There are a number of reasons: a.) it may be the most convenient time for them to meet, b.) they want to see your table manners – definitely if the position you are interviewing for will require you to take others out to lunch or c.) they just like to go out to eat.
2. What should I do if I am not familiar with the restaurant the employer chooses?
Nowadays most restaurants have their menu online and you can look it up prior to your interview to familiarize yourself with what they offer. You can also arrive a little earlier and ask for a menu or ask the host what they recommend. If the employer shows up and sees you already looking at the menu, it’s no big deal.
3. How early should I arrive?
You should treat lunch interviews as regular interviews and arrive 15 minutes early.
4. Where should I put my purse, bag and/or coat?
If you have a bag or briefcase put it on the floor next to your chair or in one of the other empty chairs at the table. A more upscale restaurant will have a coat check, but if not you can also put your coat in one of the empty chairs or hang it on the back of your chair. Now, make sure your bag and coat are not in the aisle in the way of the servers that will be passing by.
Ladies, when you are going for an interview take a smaller purse (or wallet) that can fit in your lap under your napkin.
5. If the interviewer is a woman should I open the door for her or pull out her chair?
Absolutely not! In business things of this natural are gender-neutral. If you try to pull out the interviewer’s chair or open her door, she may see it as being overbearing. And under no circumstances do you walk her to her car. Keep in mind, this is a business meal….you are not on a date!
6. How do I know what to order?
You can do the things mentioned above in #2 or you can very casually ask the employer what he/she will be having or recommends. Take notice of the price of the suggested items and stay within that range. You don’t want to order a steak that costs $21.99 and the employer has a chicken salad for $11.99. Do not order messy foods. You will already be nervous and shouldn’t add to that by trying to figure out how to wrap the spaghetti around your fork. Also, never order alcohol…even if the interviewer is having alcohol. It could be a test to see if you will drink in the middle of the day. Then if you get the job, you may do the same thing and come back to work after you have been drinking.
7. Is it okay to pray over my food?
Of course. There’s no need to make a big deal about it. Just pray as you would normally.
8. How do I pace myself during the meal?
You want to watch the interviewer and keep the same pace. You don’t want them to be done with their salad and having to wait 10 minutes for you to finish yours. Also, don’t get done too early. The lunch interview is NOT about the meal. So, make sure you eat a snack beforehand so you do not arrive starving.
9. What if there is something wrong with my food or I don’t like it?
This is where you have to make a decision as to whether it is absolutely unbearable or you can still get through it. If it is clearly something you cannot eat (you’re allergic to it or you feel it will make you sick), very politely explain that to the server and order something else. You should order something that can be prepared quickly like a salad so you don’t “hold up” the interview.
Now, if you order something and then realize you don’t quite have a taste for it, just eat a reasonable portion of it anyway. Remember, the interviewer is observing your table manners and you don’t want to do anything that will raise a red flag like being too picky or indecisive.
10. How do I take notes and eat during the interview?
Very carefully. You can have a small notepad for jotting down those important things you want to be sure you don’t forget. You will have to use your listening skills more so in this situation and then jot down most of your notes as soon as you get to your car.
11. What if I need to excuse myself from the table?
The only reasons you should excuse yourself is to use the restroom or excessive coughing or sneezing. In this case just say, “Excuse me, I will be right back.” That’s it…you don’t have to announce that you are going to the restroom. I mean…where else would you be going???? You should not leave the table to take a phone call because your phone should be turned off or left in the car. The only phone call exception is if there is a family emergency and someone is in the hospital. In this instance, you would let the employer know that as soon as you sit down at the table. You can say, “I just want to let you know that a family member is in the hospital and I may be getting an update while we’re here. I apologize in advance if I need to step away for a moment.”
12. What if I see someone I know while at the restaurant?
Speak briefly, explain that you’re on an interview and try to keep moving. Example: “Hi Michelle, how are you?” (Michelle: I’m doing great.) “Good to see you! I’m on an interview with XYZ Company. I will catch up with you later.” Hopefully, they will get the hint that they should end the conversation. You may have to give them a “look” that says “I can’t talk right now.” Once you leave the interview, you can call them on the phone and fully explain the reason for your abruptness.
13. Can I take home a “to go” box?
NO! You should try to eat the majority of your food and not really leave too much on your plate.
14. Should I offer to pay or leave the tip?
No, it is not necessary. The employer will pay for the meal and leave the tip.
15. Can I smoke after the interview?
You may smoke once you are out of the view of the employer.