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Tips For Navigating Lunch Interviews

As the world begins to open up again thanks to medical advances in understanding and preventing the spread of Covid-19, more and more interviews are taking place over lunch. This can be a tricky portion to navigate, but with a little guidance, reconnaissance work, and critical thinking, you will feel more confident and at ease.

The Purpose of Lunch Interviews
Lunch interviews are a way for future employers to see you in a more casual and relaxed setting. They want to get a sense of your personality and how you interact with others in a casual atmosphere. However, as the interviewee, you need to be strategic in handling it. Remember, it is still part of the interview process. You may be tempted to let down your guard too much and allow this to be more of a social event.

Do Some Research
Before your lunch interview, do some basic research to find out details of the restaurant like the location, type of setting, and clientele they typically serve. Look through the menu and pick out a couple of options you might order. This will cut down on the amount of time spent looking at the menu and give you more opportunity to engage with the interviewer. Be sure to see how long it will take you to drive to the restaurant and set yourself up to be there at least 15 minutes beforehand. Wait outside for the interviewer to arrive to avoid the awkwardness of wondering if they have already gotten a table yet.

What’s For Lunch?
This can be a tricky part to navigate. Obviously, you do not want to order the most expensive item on the menu, but you do want to try to stay within the range of what the interviewer orders. Once you’ve been seated, casually ask them if they’ve been there before and what they may suggest. If not, let them order first. You want to try to order something around the same price or less. Try to avoid messy foods such as a loaded sandwich or burger or noisy foods like soups. This allows your hands to be free in case you need to handle any materials, like your resume, during lunch.

Most importantly, no matter how casual the setting, you want to put your best self forward. This includes staying away from alcohol, even if the interview orders a drink. Once you’ve gotten the job, you will have plenty of opportunities to share a drink with them; but the interview is not the time or the place.

How To Present Yourself
Interviews that involve meals are meant to be more casual and less of a question-and-answer session. Engage in two-way dialogue and use active listening to engage in the conversation. Answer the question they ask, but also take the opportunity to ask anything you would like to know as well. The conversation may also steer into more personal things such as where you grew up or how you ended up in the area. It is still advisable to steer clear of too personal subjects like your parent’s health, but especially subjects like the horrible date you went on last weekend.

One thing to keep in mind is that the interviewer is also getting a sense of how you will represent the company at similar settings. Be conscientious of your table manners, sit up straight, keep your elbows off the table and say please and thank you. This also includes how you interact with the waitstaff. Show them courtesy and respect while interacting with them.

Group Lunches
Occasionally, you may be invited to have lunch with the team you’ll be working with. Take the opportunity to try to talk with each person. Demonstrate your ability to engage politely with others while also getting a sense for the culture within the team. Take the opportunity to ask how long people have been with the company and the group, too. Remember, you are also looking for a work environment that matches with your goals as well.

Wrapping Things Up
Do not worry about paying for the check. The company has invited you to lunch and is, therefore, responsible for the bill. Take this opportunity to ask about the next steps. This will give you insight as to what to address in your thank you notes. Be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and the meal. You want to leave them with a positive impression of you and courtesy goes a long way to ensure just that.