It’s becoming more and more common for interviews to take place over a meal, giving a prospective employer an opportunity to learn more about you, how you interact in a public setting, and how well you handle yourself during a business meal. Although a mealtime interview may be out of your comfort zone, these tips will help you land the job.
Before the Meeting
If you are not familiar with the restaurant or location, do your research. Knowing what to expect when you arrive will help put you at ease. You should also continue to research the company and your prospective boss. Get to know the company’s website, and review your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile.
Remember to bring copies of your resume, your work portfolio if requested, and a notepad and pen in case you need to take notes. And finally, brush up on proper dining etiquette. Mastering a few simple rules will impress your interviewer and set you up for success.
Arriving at the Restaurant
Prepare to arrive 15 minutes early and place your cellphone on vibrate. Wait for your interviewer in the lounge or near the bar (don’t order an alcoholic beverage!), and follow your interviewer to the table when he or she arrives.
Once seated, place your napkin on your lap. If you leave to use the restroom during lunch, place your napkin on your chair. Remember to sit up straight and close to the table. Keep your elbows off the table at all times, and NEVER interview with your mouth full!
Placing Your Order
Follow your host’s lead. If your host is having a light lunch, you may want to do the same. You should always steer clear of messy foods. The last thing you want is spaghetti sauce splattering on your shirt or mustard sliding out of your burger. Order a dish that’s easy to eat, and take small bites. This will make it easier to converse.
Your interviewer will be watching your interaction with the server, so remember to be genial and polite — “please” and “thank you” go a long way.
Finally, do not order an alcoholic beverage, even if your interviewer does. Alcohol will make you uninhibited, and this is one meal where you need to be focused.
The Meal Itself
You may find that your place setting has multiple dishes, glasses, and utensils. This is especially true for upscale restaurants. If you can remember two simple rules, you are golden. Glasses are set to the right of each place setting, so any glass on your right side is yours to use. And, if you have multiple forks or other utensils, remember to use them from the outside in: begin eating your first course with the fork that is the farthest away from your plate and work your way in when your second and third courses are served.
If you will be dining with more than one interviewer, note that shared food, like bread, should be served from left to right by the person closest to the dish. Most importantly, wait until everyone has been served before you start eating!
Your mealtime interview should be like any other: an opportunity to sell yourself to your employer, and a chance to explain why you want to work for this company. Be prepared to talk about company specifics that are of interest to you – growth plans, revenue goals, customer service, etc.
Make sure to have plenty of questions for your potential employer. Not only will this give you further insight into the organization and position, it will also allow you to take a few bites of your food! Your employer will also want to make sure you are a cultural fit for the company, so try to find some common interests, like hobbies, sports, and travel. Stay away from politics and religion, and remain professional.
Let the employer pick up the bill. Thank your interviewer for their time and for the meal; be sure to convey your continued interest in the company, and ask for a business card if you don’t already have one. You will need your interviewer’s contact information in order to write a thank you note expressing your thanks once again, and noting specific topics that came up during conversation that were of particular interest to you.