Interviews over Lunch: Manners Matter

In some careers, organizations like to meet their potential employees in a “less formal setting.” Before deciding whether to hire them, the leader will generally conduct themselves with the belief that they want to “really get to know” you without the formality of the in­office interview.

If this happens to you, I want to remind you of the obvious ­­there is nothing informal about an interview. Everything that you do and say is used to evaluate and assess you.

If the restaurant is not one that you are familiar with, consider traveling there in advance of the interview to ensure that you know how to get there. Carry the phone number with you, call and ask that a message be conveyed to your host(ess) if you’ll be late. Often you can look at a menu on the restaurant’s website so that you can be familiar with it.

Arrive five minutes before your reservation to take a few minutes to primp (yes, guys, check the mirror in the men’s room for surprises) and to get your focus on your objective for the meeting ­­winning the interview by creating a favorable impression.

You are under no obligation to drink, even if your host(ess) is doing so. What does it say about your new employer if you are hired based upon your ability to hold your liquor, rather than because of your experience and competence?

Some people suggest eating before lunch to ensure that you do not have an enormous appetite. I find it far more important for you to be conscious of how your blood sugar levels cause you to act and manage your metabolism.

For example, most mornings I am up before 5 a.m., have breakfast before leaving for work and eat lunch in the area of noon. If I am asked to meet someone for lunch at [1:30], I know that I will struggle with being focused on my client because a [1:30] reservation means eating at 2 p.m.

Would you be eating on­schedule, way early or way late for you? What foods cause you to be sluggish or help you deliver peak performance?

If lunch is at a steakhouse, do you need to eat the two ­pound prime rib, a salad with blue cheese dressing, an enormous baked potato, and a huge dessert that will sit in your stomach like lead? Can you eat something a little lighter that will help you keep your concentration?

Manners should go without mention but I will mention them. When you answer a question, put your knife and fork down. Answer the question even if your food gets cold ­­or order something cold on the menu. What’s wrong with ordering a cold seafood plate for lunch? Cold poached salmon? Steak tartare? Skip the finger food like lobster, crab, and spare ribs and concentrate on items that you can be well­mannered with.

Often, the real purpose of a lunch interview is to see what you will be like when you are away from the watchful gaze of the office. By conducting yourself professionally, you will maintain and probably enhance the good feelings about you that caused you to get the interview and help you win the job you want.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2008, 2016, 2020


JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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