The Luncheon Interview

If you are a serious contender for a job, it is possible you may be taken to lunch during the interview process by the hiring manager. The lunch interview can be one of the most harrowing of all interview experience due to the setting. It’s difficult to maneuver food, manners, social-like interaction, and give good interview question answers. It’s a little like juggling plates – you have to keep them all in the air to please the audience.

There are some general guidelines to remember that will help you get through a luncheon interview. Some are common sense; some are good manners; and some are strategic.

The common sense guidelines are:

• Don’t order messy food. Stick with easy-eating food.
• Don’t order the most expensive or the cheapest things on the menu. Go for something in between.
• Do not order an alcoholic beverage, even if the interviewer does.
• Don’t order something that will leave you with bad breath.
• Don’t smoke during the meal or at all during the interview.

The good manners guidelines are:

• Treat the waitress as if she is your sister (or someone that you like if you don’t like your sister). Smile and be considerate. The way you relate to the staff gives the interviewer clues as to how you will treat subordinates on the job.

• The old “hold the chair” for ladies bit of etiquette generally doesn’t apply anymore but it never hurts to wait until the lady or ladies are seated before taking your seat if you are a man. If you are a female, take your seat first.

• Don’t say “I don’t like..” when referring to a food you don’t like. Rather, it’s best to say “I don’t care for…”

• Turn off your cell phone during the interview.

• If you are served your food first, wait until everyone else has their food before beginning to eat.

• Don’t blow your nose at the table.

• Don’t send your food back, even if it is totally not what you ordered. Creating a scene is not what you want to do in an interview.

The strategic guidelines are:

• Be there early and arrange a good table away from noise and high traffic lanes before the interviewer arrives. Slip the hostess or maitre d’ some cash if needed. This demonstrates a take charge attitude to the interviewer.

• Sit with your back to the rest of the restaurant so you can focus on the interviewer. If you sit with your back to the wall, you may seem to be distracted by the crowd, even if you aren’t.

• If asked a question while you are chewing, use the time while you are swallowing to mull over your answer. Make sure you swallow slowly; having to have the Heimlich Maneuver performed on your doesn’t make a good impression.

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