Mealtime Interviews: An Etiquette Guide

Mealtime Interviews: An Etiquette Guide

You have just gotten the interview and the hiring manager said it’s a lunch interview tomorrow at 1:00. You have never had a lunch interview before or have not had one for quite some time. What do you do?

Lunch interviews are generally more laid back, and talking about your personal life is more common and expected. However, it is still an interview.  So selling yourself and finding out if the job is a right fit for you should be your priorities.  Here is how you can prepare for a mealtime interview:

Do your research: If you know the restaurant where the meal will be, look it up before hand and see what kind of place it is. You could even go a step further and call the restaurant to see how people dress. This is also a good time to see what’s on their menu and have a couple of choices in mind. Appearing out of the place or being indecisive about your meal choices are not good selling points.

Manners: Like my mother always told me – no matter where you are, eat like you are dining with the Queen. Here are some basic manners that sometimes we might forget:

  • Put your napkin in your lap
  • Eat with your mouth closed
  • Never talk with food in your mouth

What to eat/what not to eat: Never order the most expensive thing, but don’t go out of your way to order the cheapest thing, either. Avoid finger foods, foods that are hard to eat, and foods that are messy, such as ribs or crab. It’s a good idea to eat a little beforehand so you are not starving at the interview.

Conversation: The topics during a mealtime conversation are usually a lot more casual than interviews at the office. Relax – it’s okay to discuss parts of your personal life that you feel are appropriate to share.  This is also a chance to ask your future manager or co-worker less formal questions, such as “Why did you decide to join this company?” or “How do you feel about the work-life balance at this company?”  It can give you insights you may not gain otherwise.

Paying for the meal: When the lunch is over and the bill comes, what do you do?  It’s expected that the interviewer pays because they invited you. Say thank you, and remember to follow up.

If you are well prepared for your mealtime interview, it’s a great opportunity for you and your future employer to get to know each other in a casual environment. Take advantage of this chance to show that you’re a pleasure to be with, socially and professionally.


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