10 Tips for Lunch Interviews

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Many employers use nontraditional methods of interviewing employees for jobs these days. Cultural alignment and team fit are extremely important when it comes to retaining team members, and it is important for your future job satisfaction, as well. Hiring teams like lunch interviews, as they take the formality out of the interview process and give managers the chance to evaluate you in a more relaxed environment where your true personality will shine through.

Here are 10 tips to help you fare well in a lunch interview setting:

  1. Look up the restaurant in advance. When you get the name of the restaurant, do a quick internet search to learn a little more about it. It can also help to study the menu so you don’t spend too much time trying to decide what to order during your interview.
  2. Arrive a few minutes early. Don’t be late. If you find yourself in an unforeseen traffic snag due to an accident or road closure, call the hiring manager immediately. When you get there, be sure to check in with the host, but let them know you will be waiting for the rest of the party to arrive.
  3. Don’t order messy or odor-causing foods. If you scanned the menu ahead of time, you’ll know which dishes to avoid. Stay away from garlic and onions. You also want to avoid sandwiches, chicken wings, or other messy dishes.
  4. Don’t order alcohol. Even if everyone else at the table orders a drink, don’t be tempted. First and foremost, this could be a test. Second, you don’t want to embarrass yourself, as one drink often leads to another.
  5. Turn off your phone. Before you sit down at the table, turn off your phone. If you arrive early, you can leave it on in case the hiring manager needs to reach out to warn you of a late arrival, but once you are seated, make sure it is off. Even if everyone else checks their own phones regularly (and they probably will), resist the urge to take a peek.
  6. Watch out for overly friendly companions. Companies will often send along an employee who seems to match up to your own profile and personality. This is usually an attempt to get you to let your guard down. Be friendly, but always keep the conversation professional.
  7. Let the interviewer lead the conversation. Don’t just sit down and immediately start talking about yourself. The hiring manager may want to save the interview talk until coffee is served. You never know, so always follow their lead.
  8. Ask questions. Come prepared to ask your lunch companions what they like about the company, their reasons for joining the firm, etc. Remember, this is your chance to learn more, and asking questions shows genuine interest in the position.
  9. Be kind to the staff. Interviewers will be watching you to see how you treat the restaurant staff. According to a survey by The Creative Group, half of the hiring managers who participated said being impolite to a restaurant’s wait staff is the single biggest mistake an interviewee can make.
  10. Say “thank you.” The company paid for your lunch and sent important people away from their work to have lunch with you. Make sure to thank everyone for both their time and for picking up the tab.


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