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Interviewing for a Job Over A Meal

Tags:  Interview Skills, Lunch interviews, Job interviews

As if the job interview process isn't stressful enough, now they say they want to do it over lunch. Ah, yes, but that's what it is all about, isn't it? How better to assess a candidate's social skills and ability to perform under pressure then to invite her to lunch?

Never fear. Handling a job interview over a meal does not have to spell disaster.  But it is all about preparation. Just like any other job interview, a job seeker needs to prepare in advance.  This means job seekers should

  • practice job interview techniques
  • refresh their memory about all their accomplishments for easier recall
  • dress appropriately for the appointment
  • be engaged and involved in the entire job interview process
  • ask appropriate questions

However, after all the basics are done, here are the five additional things to remember when interviewing for a job over the lunch hour.

Advance reconnaissance.  Just to be on the safe side, candidates might want to check out the restaurant in advance or arrive a little early. First, be sure to get directions to the location and determine the parking situation (valet or self-park?) so there's less likelihood of being late. Next find out where the restrooms are (just in case). Finally, preview the menu to decide what might be the best dining option.

Be polite. As in any interview situation, job seekers should always be on their best behavior. If any issues arise (problem with the meal or service), be diplomatic. And be sure to thank the server as well as the interviewer.

Table manners. Now is the time to remember what mama said: no elbows on the table, napkin goes in the lap, and no speaking with a mouth full of food. In addition to this, the cell phone or pager must be turned off.

About the meal.  For those who have checked out the menu in advance, this part is easy. Stay away from messy food. Go for something simple. Do not look at this as a freebie and order the most expensive item on the menu, even if it is a favorite. By all means no alcohol or dessert. Looking like an indulgent glutton is not the way to impress. And if this happens to be a group interview, don't start to eat until everyone is served.

Lunch tab. While everyone should always carry a little mad money with them, just in case, the employer always pays for the lunch. They extended the invitation after all. Don't try to be diplomatic and offer to pay – it's inappropriate and could prove embarrassing.  

What it all comes down to is that interviewing for a job over lunch has many of the same characteristics as any other interview situation; it's just a matter of politely slipping in responses to questions between mouthfuls.

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