Lunch Interviews – They’re NOT About the Food (guest post from Kirk Baumann)

by Rich DeMatteo on February 10, 2011 · 10 comments

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Kirk Baumann is a passionate recruiting advocate preparing the next generation of talent for the career of their dreams. He’s a social media enthusiast who loves technology and how it’s connecting people in ways like never before.  Kirk currently serves as Director of Career Connections for SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) World Headquarters, working with Fortune 500 & 100 SIFE Partners companies, helping them recruit top talent for their organizations as well as working directly with students, alumni, and young professionals on career development, helping them find their dream job.

Kirk’s blog, Campus to Career, is dedicated to jobseekers of all kinds, with a particular focus on college students and preparation for their career after graduation. Kirk was named Top Job Search Blogger by Blogging4jobs.com in May 2010 and has been featured on the Job Search Secrets web show, RecruitingBlogs.com, Hire Plateau and Brazen Careerist.

You’ve done your job research.  You polished your resume, attended the career fair, applied online and followed up with the recruiter.  You may have already received a call from the recruiter to set up an interview and that interview may have gone perfectly.  You expect that they’re going to offer you the job, when the voice on the other end of the line says, “I’m pleased to inform you that you’ve moved on to the next round of interviews.”  WHAT??  They then tell you that the next interview is over lunch.  GULP.

For recruiters or hiring managers, the lunch interview gives them additional perspective and insight into the “real you”.  People can memorize GREAT answers to the toughest interview questions; having a phenomenal resume, even appearing to have excellent communication skills can only get you so far.  The lunch interview (or dinner – whatever) puts you to the test.

It’s designed for two reasons:

  1. To allow the recruiter or hiring manager to get to know you on a more personal level.
  2. To see how you react to situations out of your comfort zone or element.  You’re not in the office conference room with the interviewer or a panel.  You’re in a much different setting with all kinds of variables to throw you off your game.

A few tips to help you make the most of your lunch:

  • Bring a notepad and something to write with – just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking notes
  • Be polite to the host, wait staff, ANYONE you interact with at the restaurant – people are watching and listening.  I’ve even known hiring managers to arrive late and ask the staff about their interaction just to test the candidate.  NOTE: Wait for the interviewer to arrive before being seated.
  • Know before you go – check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time.  Most are online these days.  If you have dietary restrictions or are watching calories, you’ll have plenty of time to pour over the menu.  Select 2-3 (just in case the restaurant doesn’t have one) choices that look good and keep them in mind when ordering.  Be prepared and KNOW what you want – this should make a good impression.
  • Order something simple – the point is to land the job.  You can order the rack of ribs during your celebration dinner afterwards.  Stick to things that can be eaten easily with a knife and fork.  I’d also recommend water or other non-alcoholic beverages.  If the host orders wine, politely decline.  Now, if this interview is for a wine or spirits company, there’s a difference.  Take your cue from your host.  Just don’t order the most expensive bottle.  Stick to the middle and to one glass.

Emily Post’s Guide to Etiquette still applies today.  Check out this website for more information on which fork to use, what all the different plates are used for, and basic tips like how to pass the bread, which hand to use for your drink (yes, there is a right way) and much more.

Relax, be yourself, and don’t forget, it’s still an interview.  Now, go land that job!

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9 comments
Kirk Baumann
Kirk Baumann

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I really appreciate the conversation. Rich - thanks for the opportunity to guest post here. It's been a great experience! Keep up the great work. Kirk

Brenda Griffin
Brenda Griffin

Agreed - these interviews do offer an opportunity for a more 'casual' encounter...and hence, the need to be on your toes and never forget, that at the end of the day, you're still on an interview.... I actually think this is the best way for the candidate to discover more about the organization because of the less formal environment. The ease of conversation allows for better Q&A on both sides....and a chance to read body language and all the subtle cues. Interviewers can also get a little too relaxed in this environment and reveal their true selves too - all good to know if you have these things on the radar. That being said, it you're interviewing for a sales role, this is an opportunity to shine! Great topic and reminder to all job seekers.

Tanya Oziel
Tanya Oziel

Many years ago, I took a class on business dinner meetings. We learned to always go with the simplest, cleanest thing you can find on the menu. Also, watch what other people are getting and try to get something similar. We also learned to eat something small before you leave for the interview. This way you aren't coming to the interview overcome with hunger. Like the article said: " Food is not the point of this meeting".

Lauren McCabe
Lauren McCabe

Great post, but I have tiny thing I would disagree with-- If the host orders wine, I would take that as a cue to order a glass of wine, too. I agree that it shouldn't be anything too extravagant-- I would probably slowly sip on one single glass-- but drinking is a social activity, and joining in with a glass when your host orders one would help keep the atmosphere friendly. If the host does not order a glass of wine, I agree, don't order one yourself.

Andrea
Andrea

Great advice. I agree with everything except waiting to be seated until they arrive. I have had interviews where the interviewer made reservations but was late. The hostess seated me and I waited at the table for the interviewer to arrive. In other situations, there was no reservation but I was seated anyway. I always asked for a table not in the middle of the floor, either a booth or something in a quieter area to minimize distractions.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Brenda - Thanks for the comment! I don't know I fully agree. I think an interview on-site offers a better look into the environment of a company. It may lessen the formality, but I think it's important for interviews to be formal. Also, less can go wrong legally when things are kept formal. Thanks for stopping by!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Tanya - Thanks for the comment. I agree, simple and clean is the way to go. Hmm, great point about eating something small before the interview. Great point.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Lauren - thanks for the comment! I have to disagree here. It's an interview. Them ordering may be a trick. Honestly, there are sneaky recruiters out there. Do you want to work for a sneaky company? No, but on any sort of interview, there should be no alcohol what so ever. Sticking to a glass of water is the best advice I can give. To me, it's not a good sign for the recruiter/interviewer to order alcohol for themselves and it's highly unprofessional. If this is a meet and greet networking session, typically you see events like this with Wine and Cheese, then sure, that's OK. But, never on a 1 on 1 should alcohol be involved.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Andrea - Thanks for the comment. I tend to agree with you here. I follow the 5-10 minute rule. If I'm meeting someone for coffee, I'll go ahead and get seated. I see Kirk's point here, but I don't think a recruiter will mind. Most recruiters will be mad at themselves for being late and will have hoped they sat down. Thanks for stopping by!