Surviving the Lunch Interview

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You beat the odds in this down economy. You finally got a job interview. This is the big one. The job you wanted. Problem: It’s a lunch interview.  And everything you know about lunch interviews could be put on the head of a pin--with room for a jet to land on. Some tips to get you through lunch—and possibly the job:

Google the restaurant. Map the location and jot down the phone number. Check out their light meal menus. If you’re allergic to anything, make a mental note. 

Catch up on the news. Go to you favorite online news site—the one that’s up-to-the-minute and current. Get caught up on sports, financial and business news.

Arrive a few minutes early. Check out the restaurant. See if your interviewer has already arrived. If not, wait in the lobby, not at the bar.

Wait for your party to be seated. Do this before you open your menu or place a napkin on your lap. Don’t order anything just yet. Turn off your cell phone and don’t check it for messages.

No alcohol. Order sparkling water or decaf iced tea. (Stay away from caffeine, it may make you too jumpy or nervous.) If your drink arrives with a straw (especially a cute little umbrella job or spiral number), remove it and sip from the glass.

Ordering food. Don’t order anything sloppy, goopy, slurpy or anything requiring a bib. Stay away from crunchy foods.  Order a mid-priced item. Salads are best. Don’t do a Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces: ("I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee. Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules."). KISS—nobody wants to hear about your special dietary needs, your weight loss program or your NDE with shellfish. 

Eating food. Don’t eat too fast or too slow. Keep pace with everyone at the table. And don’t woof down everything on your plate like you haven’t had a meal in days. Don’t bite into your dinner roll; break it off one piece at a time. Don’t wipe your plate with your bread. If you hate the food, finish at least half. If you love the food, don’t ask for a doggie bag. Order dessert only if the interviewer does. Again, nothing gooey, drippy or sloppy.

Beware the too-friendly interviewer. It’s not uncommon for employers to use a gregarious or affable interviewer who’s close to your age. The goal here is to see how you’ll act and what you’ll say with your guard down. 

Don’t mix papers with plates. If you brought your brag book or portfolio, wait until everyone has finished and is sipping coffee before you lay these all over the table. You don’t want to be explaining your portfolio with a mouthful of food or expect your interviewers to comment while eating. 

Be kind to servers. No facial histrionics or comments even after the servers have left. If your server made a mistake with your order, eat it anyway. Don’t make this the topic of the interview. 

Don’t fuss over the check. Let the interviewer pay. You can offer to contribute to the gratuity.

That’s it. Good luck. And if I left anything out, leave a comment below.


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