Lunch interviews are becoming a more frequent, slightly casual way to meet and get to know possible employees. Here are a few tips on how to rock a lunch interview and leave feeling confident!

Even if you’ve been to this restaurant before, research it a bit more to figure out the menu, clientele, and even the noise level. Pick out a few options you might order from the menu (more on what to choose below. This will cut the time you would spend looking at the menu and give you more opportunity to interact with your future employer.

There’s no cheat sheets available in a lunch interview, so practice your key points beforehand in order to communicate effectively and be ready to ask the important questions.

What do I wear?

Even if the restaurant is casual, that doesn’t mean you get to wear jeans. Present yourself in a professional manner but avoid looking out of place. If you are meeting in a cafe or casual restaurant, swap heels for flats or forget the tie and grab a crisp blazer.

This is a good time to ignore the advice “dress for the job you want.” If you are applying for a skilled position with a uniform, such as a chef position, don’t take this is a green light to wear your chef coat. Your future employer is looking for a professional and accountable individual, so look the part.

When to Get There:

Arrive 15 minutes early and, unless your future employer has given you instructions on a reservation, wait until they arrive to prevent confusion and awkwardness. If you haven’t met them before, look on their company website or do a Google search so you know who you are looking for.
What to Order (and Not Order!):

This is the most anxiety-ridden part of a lunch interview for most people. The best thing you can do is follow the lead from your interviewer. Ask if they’ve been there before, and if so, what they recommend. This will also allow you to get an idea of an appropriate price range. If you are interviewing for a job in food service, it can be nerve wracking to pick something that “proves” your eye for fine cuisine. Relax and order something that you will enjoy fully and won’t fling sauce all over your interviewer. You probably both are very passionate about food and that is something you can bond over! And never, ever order alcohol.

How to Present Yourself:

An interview spent sharing a meal with your potential employers is typically more of a conversation than a Q&A format. So, don’t be afraid to engage in a two-way dialogue. Yes, answer questions they ask you, but also insert any questions you have where appropriate, and know that it’s OK if the conversation veers into more personal topics (e.g., “Where did you grow up?”). That said, follow your interviewers’ lead and listen closely for when they switch from casual dialogue to questions about your fit for the position.

Also remember that one reason for having an interview over a meal is that the employer is looking at how you present yourself in this setting (and how you would represent the company in future social settings). So, be aware of all of those table manners: Sit up straight, keep your elbows off the table, maintain good eye contact, and don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.”

Wrapping Things Up

At the end of the meal, don’t be worried about the check. The interviewers have invited you to the meal, and therefore, they’ll pick up the tab.

As the bill is being paid, make sure to ask about any next steps, which will help guide what you write in your thank-you note (yep, you need to write one after every interview—meals included!). And also take the time to genuinely thank your interviewers for their time and the meal, both as they are paying the check and as you leave the restaurant.

Having an interview over a meal is a good thing—it means the interviewers are interested in spending more time with you, and it’s a great way to convey your skills and personality in a less-formal environment. Be prepared and remember these guidelines, and you’ll have a great interview (and, hopefully, a great meal).

Parts of this article were re-purposed from

Culinary Services Group

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