The goal of a mealtime interview is to test your behavior, personality, and social graces. There are certain behaviors that your potential boss will be evaluating. Some will be a red flag against you and others will score you big points! If you’ve been invited to an interview that will take place over a meal, there are several things you’ll want to think about ahead of time. Here is a list of major do’s and don’ts for mealtime interviews:
Do...Dress for an Interview
Dress as you would for a regular interview—this means a suit. Even if your lunch meeting is at a casual restaurant, we recommend dressing to impress.
Do...Bring Your Resume
Go prepared with a copy of your resume. This keeps your interviewer from having to pull it up on their phone and squint at the screen. Some employers will bring a copy of your resume with them, or may have already read it and will come with questions for you. Regardless, bring a copy with you; you'll look sharp for having one.
Do...Mind Your Manners
Everything from standing up for a handshake when your interviewer arrives, to being mindful of the mess you’re leaving at the table—it’s all part of the test. Consider eating a snack before you go so you can focus on highlighting your strengths, skills, and experience—as opposed to satisfying your empty stomach. Remember to do basic things like eat slowly, chew quietly, and put your napkin in your lap.
Do...Treat the Waiter or Waitress Kindly
How you treat the server can be a big part of acing a mealtime interview. Say "please" and “thank you.” If something is wrong with what you ordered, be kind and gracious when you call this to your server’s attention. Similarly, don’t overdo it on the special requests. This tells your future boss that you're high maintenance.
Don’t...Order a Messy or Super Expensive Meal
Aim to order light, easy-to-eat items. An interview isn’t a great time for peel-and-eat shrimp, ribs, or spaghetti. It’s also not appropriate to order the most expensive thing on the menu, so save the lobster for another time.
Don’t...Talk With Your Mouth Open
When food is part of an interview, it's important to eat slowly and close your mouth when you chew. You’ll likely be doing a lot of the talking, so you want to make sure you’ve swallowed your food before commenting or responding to questions.
Don't...Ask If They’re Buying
If you’re invited to an interview over drinks or a meal, it’s understood that your potential employer is footing the bill. Don’t awkwardly ask if you need to request a separate check, or bluntly ask if they're paying.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
The best way to approach drinking during a mealtime interview is to follow the lead of the person you’re with. If you’re invited to a dinner interview and offered alcohol, politely decline—unless the hiring manager orders a drink in which case it’s acceptable to do the same. It’s not okay to order hard liquor or a cocktail when the hiring manger orders a glass of wine. It’s also not okay to order multiple drinks or glasses of wine. If you’re asked out for a lunchtime interview and offered alcohol, the answer is always no—even if the hiring manager orders a drink it just doesn’t look professional to drink and then go back to work. If you’ve been asked out specifically for drinks, order ONE drink. If you don’t drink alcohol, a safe, professional choice is club soda with lime.
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