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Know What to Say on a Job Interview

Lunch or Dinner Interview

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For many, interviewing over lunch or dinner sounds like a professional and digestive catastrophe in the making.

If you have difficulty chewing gum while walking, this could be a challenge. But, with some preparation and psychological readjustment, perhaps you can actually enjoy the process.

Meals often have a cementing social effect. Breaking bread together over lunch or dinner tends to facilitate deals, marriages, friendships, and religious communion. The lunch or dinner interview relies on that logic and expands it.

Companies want to know what you are like in a social setting, particularly when the job you're trying to land requires interpersonal skills.

For example, are you relaxed and charming or awkward and evasive?

Companies want to observe not only how you handle a fork, but also how you treat your host, any other guests, and the serving staff.

Below are some tips regarding basic etiquette, to help ease the complexity of mixing food with business in a lunch or dinner interview.

  • Take cues from your interviewer, remembering that you are the guest. Do not sit down until your interviewer does.
  • Order something slightly less extravagant than your interviewer. However, if your interviewer wants you to try a particular dish, oblige.
  • Place your napkin in your lap before eating.
  • Do not begin eating until your interviewer does. If your interviewer orders coffee and dessert, do not leave him or her eating alone.
  • Except as noted above, choose manageable food items. Avoid messy foods such as barbeque ribs or crab legs.
  • If your interviewer wants to talk business, do so. But, if your interviewer and the other guests discuss other matters, do not launch into business until they do.
  • Try to set aside dietary restrictions and preferences. Remember, the interviewer is your host. It is rude to be finicky, unless you absolutely must for health reasons. If you must, be as tactful as you can. Avoid statements that reveal more than necessary, such as "I don't eat mammals" or "Seafood gives me hives." Be careful about revealing dietary health problems or you might appear to be a risky hire.
  • Find a discreet way to check your teeth for food particles after eating. For example, excuse yourself from the table to go to the restroom.
  • Practice eating and discussing something important simultaneously, but don't try to talk with your mouth full.
  • Let your interviewer pick up the tab and thank him or her for the meal.

Send a thank you note to each of your lunch or dinner interviewers.

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For sample interview questions and tips for navigating other interview types not listed above (such as technical interviews), start at Interviews.

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Know What to Say on a Job Interview
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