FAQ – Lunch Interviews

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.

 

FAQ – Recommendation Letters

1)  Are recommendation letters really necessary?

Absolutely!  They are very important as job seekers look for ways to stand out to potential employers.  Having letters of recommendation that speak favorably of your skills and qualifications can be the difference in whether you are hired or not.

2)  What should be in recommendation letters?

They should include how the person writing the letter knows you and for how long.  They should also mention your skills, qualifications, character, work ethic, personality, etc. – things that would make you a desirable employee.  If you want to make sure your recommendation letter states specifics things about you, submit a rough draft to the person you are asking to write the letter and ask them to use that as a guideline.  Sometimes they may just tell you to write the letter and they will read over it and sign it.

3)  Who should I get to write recommendation letters for me?

Recommendation letters can be written by supervisors, instructors, co-workers, advisors, pastors, mentors and clients.  Also, if you are a member of a professional organization or volunteer for one, the leaders of that organization can write a letter for you as well.

4)  How long should I know someone before I ask them to write a letter of recommendation?

At least a year (or close to it).  However, there is an exception for an internship/co-op which you may have participated in over the summer or for 6 months.  Another exception is volunteer work.  Perhaps you just helped plan a luncheon or community service event and the planning process was less than a year.  The person writing the recommendation letter in this instance could just focus on your planning skills for that particular event.

5)  How many recommendation letters do I need?

Three – preferably a letter from people in 3 different capacities.  For instance – supervisor, instructor and an organizational leader.  This would show how you are at work, in the classroom and in the community….3 different aspects.

6)  How long should recommendation letters be? 

3/4 page to 1 page

7)  When should I give employers (or others) my recommendation letters?

You can give them your letters of recommendation up front when you are submitting your resume or after the interview when you are following up with a thank you letter.  If you are trying to gain the business of a client or form a partnership with someone, recommendation letters will come in handy to speak of your previous work and business relationships.

8)  Should I print my recommendation letters on resume paper?

Yes.  Print the cover letter, resume and recommendation letters all on the same resume paper for a polished, professional look.

9)  Is it better to give names and phone numbers as references or have the actual recommendation letters?

I think they serve the same purpose and are equal.  Some employers say if they have the actual letter that saves them the extra step of having to pick up the phone and call.  While other employers say they like to be able to call a person’s references in case they have specific questions they want answered.  However, do not submit both….one or the other.

10) When and how should I ask for recommendation letters?

You should ask for recommendations NOW!!  You want to ask for them and have them before you really need them.  You don’t want to wait until you are ready to apply for a job and have to pressure the writer to give it to you in a short amount of time.  You want to give them at least a week to write the letter and have time to make any changes that might be needed.  Remember, they are busy and your request is probably not the only thing on their ‘to do’ list.

You should simply call or speak with them in person and ask for a letter of recommendation because you would like to apply for a job, apply to graduate school or have it to add to your portfolio.  Also, send them a copy of your resume so they will be familiar with all of your experience and skills.  Keep them abreast of your progress and be sure to inform them if an employer will be contacting them.  Don’t forget to send them a thank you letter.

11)  Are endorsements on LinkedIn the same as letters of recommendation?

In today’s job market, your LinkedIn profile is the new job application.  Having endorsements from those in your network, can give you the “boost” you need to be seen as a professional or expert in your field.  Since your profile will mostly likely be seen before the interview; thus the endorsements will be seen before the interview, that can suffice as letters of recommendation.  (Tip:  Include the hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile on your resume to make sure employers will see your endorsements.)   However, when you follow up after the interview with a thank you letter, you can still include your actual letters of recommendation as a “reminder.”

 

FAQ – Cover Letter

1.  What is the purpose of a cover letter?

The purpose of a cover letter is to expound on your resume.  You don’t want to repeat your resume but highlight the most notable things about your career.  It is your opportunity to show the research you have done on the company you are interested in and also show some personality and get them to like to you.  You want them to be interested enough to want to read your resume.

2.  What goes in a cover letter?

A cover letter generally consists of 3 paragraphs.

a) Introduce yourself with a catchy statement and tell how you found out about the job.  Mention the specific position that you are applying for.  Include research on the company and why you want to work for them.

b) This is where you really sell yourself to the employer.  I would suggest that you pick 2 – 3 of your most notable achievements and expound on them using bullets.  Be sure to explain how those experiences make you a good fit for the job.

c) You should thank the reader for their time.  Specifically mention that you want an interview and then let them know if you will be contacting them or you want them to contact you.  If you are ever asked for salary requirements/salary history, it goes in the last paragraph.  Give them a range.

3.  What if I don’t have a specific person/name to send it to?

There are a number of ways you can handle this.

You can say “Dear Hiring Manager:” or “Dear Internship Coordinator:”

You never say “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”

You can skip the salutation altogether and put “RE:  Employment” or “RE:  Front Desk Manager Position (#45860).”

4.  How long should a cover letter be?

3/4 page to 1 page

5.  Do I need a different cover letter for each job?

Yes, you definitely need a different one so you can tailor the details to fit each particular job.  An employer wants to feel like you want to work specifically for them. So you don’t want to create a generic cover letter and send it out to everybody.

6.  What is the best way to send a cover letter?

When e-mailing your cover letter to an employer, copy and paste it directly into the body of the e-mail and attach your resume (PDF) and references (PDF).  You want the hiring manager to start reading your cover letter right away as soon as they open the e-mail.

7. Do employers really read cover letters?

It depends on the individual manager.  Some say they read them all the time. Some say they haven’t read one in years.  If you do # 6 it is kind of impossible for them not to read it.

8. What else should I have with a cover letter?

You should have your resume and references or letters of recommendation.  You can denote additional items by including at the bottom after your name “Enclosure:  Resume, References.”  If you are giving these documents to someone in person, be sure to paperclip them together – not staple – and have your name on each document in case they get separated.

9.  If I’m printing my resume on resume paper, does the cover letter need to be on resume paper as well?

Yes, use the same paper to print your cover letter, resume and references or letters of recommendation.  It makes you look more polished.

10. Can not having a cover letter keep me from getting a job?

That can only be answered by the individual employer.  Not having a cover letter could keep you from standing out among other candidates; thus, keeping you from getting an interview and ultimately getting the job.

 

FAQ – Interviews

1.  How early should I be for an interview?  You should arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time.  Use the extra time to browse through your notes one last time and observe the atmosphere.  Keep in mind the interview begins as soon as you walk through the door.  So don’t talk on your cell phone or underestimate the receptionist!  If you arrive more than 15 minutes before your interview, sit in your car and wait.  You don’t want to show up too early and make the interviewer feel rushed.

2.  What should I bring with me to the interview?  Bring several copies of your resume, company research, questions to ask, portfolio, references or recommendation letters, business cards, paper, pen and anything else they told you to bring.  It is better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.  Make sure all of this information is in a folder or binder — no loose papers.

3.  What should I know about the interview beforehand?  Try to find out as much as you can about what will take place so you will be prepared.  Will you have to fill out an application?  Will there be multiple interviews during your appointment?  Will you be given a tour of the facility?  Will you have to take an assessment test?  Do they have the proper A/V equipment if you are giving a presentation?

4.  How should I dress for the interview?  If you are unsure you can simply ask.  They may say professional dress and they may say business casual.  You can always observe what the current employees are wearing and use that as a guide.  But keep in mind they already have their jobs so they may be dressed “down.”  So generally I would say “dress to impress.”  Don’t wear anything (including jewelry, make up, perfume, cologne, hairstyle) that is going to leave a negative impression on them.  You may have a little bit more leeway if you are going into the fashion industry or a creative field.

5.  What if I forget the interviewer’s name or don’t know how to pronounce it?  Simply call before your interview and ask the receptionist or administrative assistant.  This is a big “NO NO” that could be avoided very easily.

6.  What if I am running late for an interview or can’t make it at all?  If you will be late, call the interviewer and give them an estimated time of arrival and the reason for your tardiness.  If something has come up and you can’t make it at all, be honest.  Ask if it is possible for you to reschedule.  Keep in mind being late or not keeping your appointment is strike one against you and it is a HUGE strike.  The employer may just forfeit your interview altogether.  If you do get the chance to still meet with the interviewer, genuinely apologize and be sure to make up for the mishap by giving a great interview!

7.  What research should I do on the company?  You should first start with the company website and look up their values, mission statement, future plans, products, services, honors, awards, current news, training and development opportunities and job openings.  You should jot these things down and familiarize yourself with them.  Your notes will come in handy when asked “What do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?”  You can also check out the Better Business Bureau, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and Facebook for additional information.  Don’t forget to look up the actual interviewer and know 2 – 3 things about him/her as well.  Not knowing anything about the company could be strike 2!

8.  What questions should I ask during the interview?  You should have at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer such as:  A) “What would be a typical day for someone who is hired in this position?”  B) “What kind of training program do you have?”  C)  “What would be expected of me in the first 90 days if I’m hired in this position?”  D) “What is your management style?”   E)  “When do you plan to make a decision as to whom you are going to hire?”   You should ALWAYS have questions.  Just like the interviewer is trying to see if you are a good fit; you should be trying to see if the company is a good fit for you as well.  No questions shows that you are not really interested in the job.

9.  What if I am asked an illegal question in an interview?  Sadly some employers do not know what questions are illegal.   Generally questions related to marital status, having children, race, religion, sex, filing for bankruptcy, hospitalization history, having a car, or garnishment of wages are illegal.  So when asked an illegal question respond to the INTENT of the question instead of the question itself.  For example if an employer is trying to figure out if you are married he/she may ask, “Will your husband/wife  have a problem with you traveling for this job?”  Your response should be, “I don’t foresee anything that would prevent me from fulfilling the duties associated with this job.”

10.  How soon should I follow up after an interview?  You should follow up immediately — definitely within 24 hours.  You want to do it right away so you don’t forget and so they don’t forget who you are.  You should thank them for taking the time to interview you and giving you the opportunity to learn more about their company.  This can be done through an e-mail, voice message or handwritten note.  I would suggest you mention something specific that you talked about in the interview to make them remember you.  Also, if you are sending an e-mail include additional information such as recommendation letters, LinkedIn profile, blogs, online portfolio or video resume.  Remember, each interviewer needs his/her own individual thank you.