Need advice on lunch interview

I have all the usual questions: what should I wear? How important is the dining ettiquette (sp?)? Anything in particular I should watch out for?

It seems like this lunch interview would seem more difficult than a typical high-pressure one-on-one interview.

All I know is that a person I know sort of and their manager asked me to meet up with them for this lunch interview next week. Location is unknown so far.

I would avoid ordering anything with a lot of onions or garlic in it.

Also, if you are going to have alcohol, have just one glass, be it beer, wine or the hard stuff. If you are going to have alcohol, I would strongly advise drinking a good amount of water duringt the meal to help wash the booze out and to keep you from getting tipsy.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to wear pants.

Better to over rather than underdress. Wear a suit (assuming you’re a guy…I don’t know)

Order food that is interview friendly. Pasta with red sauce is a major no-no and nothing long and stringy like spighetti (sp?), because you might get it all over yourself and/or slurp it.

Expect to have to talk quite a bit so anything requiring lots of chewing (like a steak) can also be weird. Interviewers, just like waitresses, like to wait until your mouth is full before they ask a question and it can be awkward if there is a long pause while you chew…and chew…and chew…before answering.

Also, bring (or better yet memorize) a list of intelligent questions to ask them, in case there are awkward silences on the interviewer’s part. Questions about the job (i.e. what is the career path for an individual taking this job?) and questions about the company that especially show you understand their product/ service and the competition are good as well. If it’s a job with specific skills that are needed, talk about those and how you applied them at previous jobs.

Make lots of eye contact, sit leaning slightly forward, and look very interested when the interviewer is talking. Kiss their ass where appropriate, but don’t be obvious about it.

If you can find out the location and eat a meal there beforehand, that might help you be more comfortable. Also, you can plan what to order, how to eat it gracefully, how much you will be able to eat. I recommend grilled chicken breast of some type as a pretty graceful food to eat.

I would stay away from alcohol unless the interviewer really encourages it. Unless drinking at lunch is totally accepted in their corporate culture, that could easily be a dealbreaker.

No alcohol, really, even if the interviewer has one, and tells you it’s okay, unless you’re 100% sure that the corp culture allows it.

Almost every kind of food will get you into trouble some way or another. I’d try to go as close to a sandwhich as you can get.

I made the mistake of ordering a salad the first time I had a lunch interview, I only got to eat about 4 bites of it. I was starved!

Definitely I’d stay away from soup, salad and long noodle dishes. Anything that can be cut with a knife & fork, or a fork alone is a good bet, as long as it’s not real saucy. The nice thing about those chew, chew, chew faSTER! moments is that you have a few extra seconds to mull over a difficult question.

Good Luck!

Yep. Do the iced tea thing. Order something relatively neat and inexpensive. They should be picking up the tab so don’t break their wallets.

Have a few (not a lot) of direct questions about the job and the manager’s desires for the position.

[ul][li] Zero alcohol, no matter if they’re drinking pitchers of beer.[/li]
[li] Dress fairly formal, overdressed is never underdressed.[/li]
[li] Order something that already comes in bite size pieces, like ravioli. If possible, wear dark colors to hide any spilled food.[/li]
[li] Dining ettiquette is critical. Pretend you’re meeting your betrothed’s parents for the first time.[/li]
Bring extra copies of your resume. Make sure everyone is offered a copy before the food arrives.[/ul]

• Reiterating, no alcohol

• Wait until the host/hostess lifts their fork before digging in

• Assume that you won’t be able to address your nutritional needs, and let that fall by the wayside if need be; you’re not really there to eat

• Not everybody who interviews people is good at it; help the interviewer stay on track

Good luck!

Yes, because we all know how drinking water negates the effects of having alcohold in ones bloodstream.


Drinking lots of water will help your hangover, but that’s about it.

I’d be wary of any interview where the alcohol thing is even an issue. I can’t imagine a lunch interview having any alcohol at all. Not only would I not order a drink, I wouldn’t touch the subject at all. If the interviewer orders one it would concern me if this were the type of company I would want to work for.

Does anybody know what the proper etiquette is for when a piece of food, say lettuce from a salad, falls from the plate onto the table?

I am genuienly curious. Do you put it back on your plate? Leave it on the table? Pick it up with your napkin?

I would probably place it on the edge of my plate, away from the other food.

If offered alcohol before the interviewer has ordered, say, “Thank you, but I don’t drink and drive.” (if you’re not driving immediately afterwards you may well be driving shortly afterwards). This immediately establishes you as a responsible and sensible person. Of course, if they’ve ordered a drink, then it could be seen as insulting to so respond. Unless they’re testing you.

That seems reasonable.

I ask because when I was graduating from college, they actually had a class on lunch interviews. It was a lunch during the weekend that seniors could go to. Dressed in interview clothing they would have people skilled in etiquette circling and teaching important manners and such.

They marketed the class by asking in a flyer or something what you would do if the salad fell on the table. If you don’t know you should attend. Of course, I did not and still do not know. However, I couldn’t attend for some reason. I’ve always been curious since.

I was just gonna say that. Your interviewer might think to himself, “So what are you saying? That I drink and drive?” So, you might want to reply with just a simple, neutral, “no, thank you.”

If he asks why, then you follow up with the drink and drive part. Something like, “I’d rather not drink and drive, as I have a low tolerance” (even if you don’t).

As for foods to avoid, I’d stay away from anything where you pick up the food with your hands (sandwiches, fried chicken, ribs, fries, onion rings, etc.)

You want to have your hands clean at all times. Should he extend his hand out for a handshake or offer you a document unexpectedly, you don’t want to be fumbling around for a napkin.

And, avoid condiments. You don’t want to be violently shaking a Heinz ketchup bottle over your food, only to have the ketchup burst out onto your food, and possibly onto yourself, and even the interviewer.

Regarding the awkward silences, since there will be a third person there, those silences might not be so frequent, but still, like Yarster has mentioned, have a list of questions in your head (research the company ahead of time).

Just remember, this is very much like a date. Be kind and courteous, let them order first, if they get up, you get up, and open doors when appropriate.

When the bill comes, let it sit for a minute. If nothing happens, extend your arm out to it (but make sure your interviewer sees you doing this), and if he still does nothing, then put in your share.

Keeping your drink glass a little further away from your plate than usual will help avoid accidentally knocking it over. Get your napkin into your lap before eating even one bite.

BGO*: Chew with your mouth closed. Sounds obvious, but I’ve met too many people who are unaware of doing this. Were I interviewing someone at lunch and they ate with their mouth open, they’d be toast.


I took a 1-day class on this in college and one thing I’ve always remembered (seems kinda stupid, but it always stuck in my head) is that you should never look at the menu and say something like, “Everything looks so good; I can’t decide what to order” because it makes you look indecisive. If you can’t choose a meal, how can you make business desicions?
Quickly scan the menu and (as other posters have said) find something easy to eat. Nothing too messy or drippy. I would second (or third or fourth?) no alcohol.

[li]Laminate your attire so you can order the pasta with red sauce[/li][li]Talk out of turn and make sure your mouth is full. It shows your confidence.[/li][li]Order the most expensive item on the menu because, well he’s paying. Plus it shows you have high standards[/li][li]Don’t pick your teeth at the table, FLOSS. Don’t be afraid to use the reflection in his glasses as a mirror.[/li][li]After he leaves the tip, hang behind and steal it. If you get caught, it shows your willingness to “save the company money”[/li][/ul]

Seriously, I think this is all bad advice, mine included. It looks like they’re trying to make it as relaxing as possible and it’s having the opposte effect. I wouldn’t want to come off as too uptight.

I went through THREE lunch interviews to land my current job (my predecessor was being fired, so I couldn’t come into the office).
The lunches were a little more relaxed than a conventional office interview, but then again you do have the added stress of trying to eat while you’re explaining how you’re the most brilliant candidate for the job. As Zenster stated, you need to be really careful to keep your mouth closed while eating - and do not attempt to talk while you’re eating! In fact, I would suggest eating beforehand and picking at your food during the interview. (Come to think of it, though - I ordered salad on all 3 occasions, ate it all and got the job. So there you go.)

Always wear a suit for interviews.

I almost forgot…order a bunch of stuff you couldn’t possibly eat and then ask for a doggie bag at the end.

This would all seem funny if I wasn’t going to need a job soon.
I did have an interview in the parking lot of a Bennigans once. I got the job! YES! Did it suck? YES!

When I worked for Sears Corporate, they always did a lunch interview for new hires; they found it terribly informative.

Who didn’t get hired? The girl who couldn’t make up her mind what to order. The lady who sent something back to the kitchen. The guy who complained about the food and the menu. The guy who ordered a drink.

Lunch interviews are a trap. There are so many opportunities to screw up and leave a bad impression. Just be calm and normal, and don’t make any trouble!

I’d also watch out for general table manners. If you’re using a knife and fork, do the American set-the-knife-down and switch-the-fork-to-the-other-hand routine, unless you’re actually in Europe. Wipe your mouth (with the napkin) frequently and discreetely. Don’t leave the table for any reason. Don’t slurp; chew with your mouth closed, etc.

Finally, make sure you hold your fork properly. A lot of people hold it in their fist, like a 2-year-old with an oatmeal spoon. Rest it on the middle finger, stabilizing with forefinger and thumb.

Some interviewers won’t be looking out for this stuff; they’re just having a lunch interview to be friendly, or to save time by combining activities. But quite a few are watching your every move like a hawk, just looking for an excuse to dislike you and not hire you. Good luck!

So, what would be better:

Cutting a piece of meat as you go OR cutting the whole steak, then eating it? Wouldn’t cutting the whole thing look weird? Yet it’s more efficient. Cutting as you go shows that you’re not willing to see a project all the way through without the aid of the immediate pampering (the food).