Seven Tips for Acing the Lunch Interview

Today’s job interviews are taking on various shapes and forms. Even though the lunch interview isn’t exactly a new kind of interview there are definitely some Do’s and Do Not’s that go along with it. This is definitely one meeting that is not about the meal. Follow these seven tips to help alleviate your stress, and ace this interview.

  1. Don’t order anything that you hold in your hands – No matter how good a hamburger, club sandwich, or slice of pizza may appeal to you, save it for later. Keep the meal simple. Choose an item that doesn’t have a heavy sauce, isn’t going to be messy, or have too much crunch. This lunch item should be something that’s easy to cut into small bites and chew and swallow quickly.
  1. Take your time between bites – It’s easy for nerves to take over and hurry through your meal so you can get it out of the way, but it’s important to not appear rushed. Between each bite, lay your fork down on your plate, take a sip of water, and place your hands in your lap for several seconds.
  1. Prepare ahead if you have dietary restrictions, food allergies, or sensitivities – It’s tempting to skip the meal altogether, but not eating would actually be worse and possibly create unnecessary tension. Most establishments, even locally owned bistros, have menus posted online, so you could call in advance to ask about substitutions and special requests. If your schedule allows, consider visiting the restaurant a day or two ahead, when it’s not busy, and speak to a server and/or the chef. This way, rather than having to appear “fussy” or “picky” when it’s time to order, you can have your selection picked out and give the server a hand-written note for special requests.
  1. Don’t forget “please” and “thank you” – The little things matter so treating the restaurant staff with respect is very important. If you need the server to bring you something or have a special request, remember to ask politely using “please” in your request. If the server asks if you need a drink refill or anything else, say “yes please” or “no thank you.” Behave humbly and graciously, and be appreciative of the server’s efforts. If the service is slow, don’t complain. Just go with the flow.
  1. Don’t wear a watch – I personally counsel clients against wearing a watch on any job interview, but I think it’s especially important with the lunch interview. The temptation to look at your watch when you’re nervous is hard to break, and during a lunch interview, it could be even more noticeable due to the wait times for ordering and food preparation.
  1. This isn’t just about how you answer the interviewer’s question – Remember your manners. This interview has a dual purpose. The interviewer wants to meet you in a casual environment, but he also is evaluating your social graces. Using proper dining etiquette and good posture is expected, so it may not be a bad idea to refresh your knowledge by reading a few articles and practicing at home. If you are someone who tends to gesture with your hands while talking, use an inconspicuous reminder, such as a rubber band around your wrist to remind yourself to keep your hands in your lap. You can fidget with the rubber band with your hands in your lap. Keep your voice to a reasonable conversation level. Don’t be the loud mouth in the restaurant.
  1. Know what’s in your résumé – This is the one time where having your résumé in front of you while you’re interviewing is not a luxury. Make sure that you have some specific accomplishment stories you can share from past work experiences. Even though this interview is taking place outside of the boardroom, prepare and dress as though it is a formal interview. Have specific questions about the position or the company prepared ahead of time and be on your best behavior throughout the entire interview.