lunch job interview

Avoid Eating & Interviewing

Job-Hunt.org just published a fabulous, practical guide on optimizing a breakfast, dinner, or lunch job interview.

The article made me think about the biggest mistake you can make at a meal-based job interview. I realized, “Simple answer, it’s scheduling that type of interview at all!”

The Problem with Interviewing Over a Meal

That’s because there’s a fundamental problem with eating during an interview. You go to an interview to talk, to share information about yourself. That’s so much easier to do when your mouth is empty.

When I recruited, I used to schedule breakfast and lunch job interviews with candidates. I stopped because I noticed:

  1. They didn’t get to finish their meals.
  2. I didn’t get all of the information I needed from them.

How to Avoid Eating & Interviewing

Thus, when you get a meal-based interview invitation, be upfront about your concern. You can say, “It’s hard for me to talk with my mouth full. Can we schedule a different time? If not, will you be comfortable if I just order coffee and a snack so I can answer your questions?”

You can probably get away with that for a breakfast or lunch interview but not a dinner interview.

When is Eating & Interviewing OK?

As you move through the interview process, you might be invited to a dinner interview. That’s pretty much a command performance. Your potential employer probably wants to get to know you better, see how you act in a common situation, and figure out whether or not they’d want to go on a business trip with you.

If that’s the case, then click on Job-Hunt’s guide above, watch Betsy Salkind’s slightly NSFW video below for what not to do (really just because it’s funny), and get prepared to impress and enjoy yourself. Oh, and decide whether or not you would want to go on a business trip with your interviewer.

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Featured by SmartBrief on Your Career
Image: Fotolia/V&P Photo Studio
Updated March 2019

© 2015 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 4

  1. Great ‘food for thought’ Donna!

    I must say though, I recently completed a dinner job interview with the CEO and his wife. Following our initial interviews it became apparent that he was eager to have my wife join us for dinner as part of the interview process. In between bites we had a very productive and enjoyable meeting. The CEO shared with me after the fact that in his opinion, a wife or significant other ‘speaks volumes’ about a candidate. Btw – I got the job!

    In my first job interview out of school at a major PR firm, the CEO took me out to lunch and insisted I have the French onion soup as an appetizer. This concoction had very stringy melted cheese atop the broth–very difficult to handle. Again, this CEO shared with me after the fact that he likes to see how candidates ‘handle’ the stringy cheese in a formal situation. Cruel, eh?

    Over my 25 year career … I haven’t had too many of these meal-based interviews. I suppose my advice would be if you must … order something that is easy to navigate … like soup without melted cheese on top!

  2. I’ve done my share of meal interviews over the years, about 100x as many as the interviewer, only a couple of times personally. I once had a candidate spit food projectiles from his mouth as he was speaking and one landed on my forehead. He took his napkin, dunked it in his water, and leaned across the table to wipe it off. Um, interview over.

    Like Stephen, I also had a “French Onion Soup” meal interview, this one was with me on the interviewee side (and also as an entry level college grad). It almost ended in disaster due to the difficulty I had with the soup, but I simply stopped, lifted a long stringy spoonful in the air and said: “Gentlemen (yes, the three guys at the table were all guys), I promise you that I will never, ever again order French onion soup for as long as I work for this firm. One of my greatest assets is that when I make a mistake, I recognize it, change, and never make that mistake again!” We all broke into laughter. That broke the tension and made everyone feel comfortable again.

    As an interviewer, I really liked the meal (typically lunch) interview. It gave me a lot more information than a typical interview. And yes, my questions were about 30 seconds and the answers were typically about 10x that length. So my advice is to order light. Order soup. Just not the French Onion kind…

  3. Haha Stephen. Now it would be tacos! Yes, you can’t always avoid the meal-based interview. Donna

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