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How to Prepare for a Mealtime Job Interview

A job interview held during a meal may seem relaxed and social, but stay as alert as you would in any other location. Mealtime interviewers are watching you carefully. You could receive a mealtime invite even after you thought you’d been through all the interviewing hoops and landed the job. This luncheon invitation might come from a higher-up in the company, perhaps your potential boss.

To avoid spilling precious job opportunities, mind your manners:

  • Don’t order entrees so hard to eat that you spend the entire interview lost in your plate with long pasta or saucy, messy, or bony food.

  • Don’t order alcohol unless you’re at dinner — even then have only one drink at most. Wine is a good choice.

  • Don’t order the most expensive or the most inexpensive thing on the menu.

  • Don’t smoke (companies are becoming obsessed with employee health costs).

  • Don’t complain about the food, the service, or the restaurant.

  • Don’t over-order or leave too much food on your plate.

For savoir faire in a mealtime interview, be sure to:

  • Order something that’s easy to eat (like a club or veggie sandwich).

  • Chew with your mouth closed, speak with your mouth empty.

  • Order something similar to what the interviewer orders or ask the interviewer to suggest something.

  • Show your appreciation for the treat — once hired, you may find yourself brown-bagging your lunch.

Practice a technique known as mirroring — what the boss or the interviewer does, you do. Take the interviewer’s lead in resting arms on the table, holding forks, and the speed of shoveling in the food. Subconsciously, you’re establishing similarities, making the interviewer like you.

Always be polite to the food server. Even if the service or food is so bad you make a mental note never to set foot in the place again. Treating the server with disrespect is worse than spilling spaghetti sauce all over the interviewer’s new suit.

No matter how much or how little the tab, the interviewer always pays, so don’t reach for the bill when it comes, even if it’s placed closer to you. Let it sit there unclaimed, unloved. Remember, this could be a test of your confidence or of your knowledge of protocol.

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