The Dreaded Lunch Interview

So you have a great resume and you nailed the interview, right? They know you’re the right person for the job, you just told them point by point what makes you the best. But then the worst happens. The lights darken and dramatic music plays in the background. “Let’s grab something to eat,” your interviewer says. You may have prepared for the worst but this is beyond your wildest expectations. They want to see if you’re a civilized person capable of carrying on a conversation full of *gasp* small talk. It’s the end. How are you supposed to manage?

Lucky for you, there happens to be a blog post that will tell you exactly what to do. Even luckier, you’re reading it. To make this simple, I’ll condense this killer advice down into 5 easy bullet points.

1. Ordering

This is the easiest part, right? Just close your eyes, move your finger around, and pick whatever you point to off the menu. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the best option. Picking what you are going to eat will require the political prowess of… well, a politician. You don’t want to pick the cheapest thing on the menu. That would be insulting to the generosity of your interviewer. You probably shouldn’t try to break the bank either though. So how do you find that balance? It’s actually really easy. Ask your interviewer what menu item they recommend. Once you get a recommendation, you also have a price associated with it! Whether or not you choose to order that exactly, try to stick to that price. Want a bonus tip? Order something that isn’t even potentially messy. I’m sure you noticed the picture above. Save yourself the embarrassment of making a slob of yourself. Take the possibility away so you don’t even have to worry about it. Your focus and mental processes are needed elsewhere.

2. Small Talk is Big

If you’re like me, you hate small talk. It’s pointless and insincere. But in a lunch interview, it’s your biggest friend. This is a great opportunity to show your interviewer that you’re someone they wouldn’t mind talking to every single day of their foreseeable lives. Like we’ve mentioned in our podcast, be the person your interviewer wants to work with. Don’t get too personal, as that could be considered invasive. But you’re safe asking things like: “What do you do for fun?” or, “Who is your favorite sports team?” You need to show them you’re interested in their lives. Likewise, when they ask you the same questions (and they will), be sure to give open and honest answers. Don’t lie about a common interest. That’s a good way to get yourself in trouble down the road. And assuming you’re planning on working for this company for more than a couple months, you can count on that trouble finding you. Another bonus tip: follow the lead of your interviewer. If they ask you about family, do the same to them. If they ask you about hobbies, do the same. In any conversation, business or otherwise, it’s very important to reciprocate the interest of your fellow converser.

3. Table Manners

Suddenly you find yourself regretting not paying more attention when your mom told you not to put your elbows on the table. Did she actually know what she was talking about? Probably. Since you most likely didn’t pay attention, here’s a quick overview. Remember the basics. Put your napkin on your lap, use your utensils from the outside in, and of course don’t put your elbows on the table. That should all be fairly easy to do, and you probably should have already known it. Match the speed at which your interviewer/host is eating. Perhaps a bit less obvious, but no less important. This could be reworded simply as “Don’t gorge yourself.” Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more awkward than finishing your food before everyone else and being on the spot in the conversation simply because you have nothing with which to fill your mouth. And if you’re one of those people who eats slowly (but who does that?), this goes for you too. Don’t be that bum everyone else has to wait for because you’ve barely even started your meal. There’s a lot of other basic table manners you may want to brush up on as well, so click here if you’re feeling a little anxious about all the things you will have to remember.

4. Stay on Guard

Just because you’re not in the office anymore doesn’t mean the interview is over. Never let your guard down. In fact, you should still have a copy of your resume (maybe even bring three, just in case your interviewer brings some guests along) and be ready to reference it at a moments notice. You’ll want a pen and paper/notebook as well. Periodically jotting down a note or two shows them you are interested in what they’re saying and that you know exactly what this is: an extension of the interview. Keep looking for questions to ask, just like you would in the formal interview, to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in what the company does. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare some questions ahead of time just like you would for the formal portion of the interview. You could even have a friend practice interviewing you in a lunch setting. The point is, the lunch interview is every bit as much a part of the interview as the office part is. You should be ready to treat it as such. Don’t think just because your setting may be a little more casual or the questions a little more personal that this is any less serious than the actual interview. You are still being evaluated (provided you didn’t fail your first impression so badly they are merely extending the lunch as a courtesy) and you need to stay as alert as possible to continue to show yourself in the best light you can.

5. Thank Your Host

Thank them for the meal, thank them for their time, and thank them for the opportunity to learn about their company. When you’re done with that, go home and write an email and thank them for the meal, thank them for their time, and thank them for the opportunity. Then write a thank you note (yes, a real, actual note) and thank them for the meal, thank them for their time, and thank them for the opportunity. Send it out the same day. This is what I call the 3×3 rule, and it will make you stand out above the other candidates.


I hope this post was helpful to you! You’re absolutely overflowing with confidence, right? Maybe not, but hopefully you’re at least half-full (half-empty?) of confidence.


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