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Oct 15

Interviews Over Lunch Or Dinner

A student reached out to us recently for tips on interviewing over lunch. As the fall recruiting season reaches the point where on-site interviews will become more common, and in preparation for the academic flyouts in the winter, here are some tips for successful interviews that take place over lunch or dinner.

1) The meal is definitely still part of the interview process. While you likely will have the chance to ask questions, your interviewers or search committee will probably dig deeper into how you fit with the team and what you bring to the role. Part of that process is gauging how well you get along with everyone at the table, how smoothly the conversation goes, and how at ease they feel with you as a member of their group. They’ll be making sure they’d want to have more lunch meetings with you in the future, so try to feel like you’re part of the team.

2) Should I get the lobster? If they say they’re taking you to a restaurant that has the best lobster in town, that’s your cue to get the lobster if you want. Otherwise, don’t get something too expensive. Order from the “middle of the menu.” Not physically the middle, but in terms of price range. Don’t feel like you have to order the least expensive menu item just to show you’re being sensitive to their budget, but don’t order the most expensive thing either.

3) Is that my water or yours? If the place settings at the table are close together, your bread plate is on the left and your drink glass is on the right. You can easily remember by either the acronym BMW (Bread plate is on the left, Main course dish is in the middle, and Water glass is on the right), or by making your fingers into the shape of b and d:

4) Take SMALL BITES of food. Inevitably someone will ask you a question as soon as you take a big bite of food, and then everyone will wait awkwardly while you chew and swallow as fast as possible. 🙂 Taking small bites will speed up that process.

5) Absolutely avoid anything messy. If they take you to a sandwich place, it’s ok to get a sandwich that requires use of your hands, but it shouldn’t be so saucy that it runs all over your fingers or drips down your chin. Also avoid things that can splatter your clothes like pasta. Good options generally include a fancy salad (rather than just a basic house salad…see #2 above), a skillet style dish that you eat with a knife and fork, or a sandwich wrap that would stay contained better than bread or bun sandwiches whose ingredients can spill out the back. And again, small bites.

If you get something like a chicken salad wrap, it can be helpful to eat about 50% of the “guts” first with your fork, then either continue with your fork or pick up the wrap with its more manageable amount of filling that won’t spill out as easily.

 

Ultimately you want them paying attention to what you’re saying and how they feel having you around for a lunch meeting. Ideally they won’t even notice that you’re eating because it will be seamless, but you do have to eat so hopefully the above steps will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of the meal interview.

Additional Resources

If you’re not just meeting at the restaurant and you have the chance to see the office space itself, this Forbes article provides tips on what to look for around the office.

Don’t worry about every minor piece of “proper” dining etiquette (there are far too many to keep them all straight), but this article offers a pretty succinct list of good ones.

 

What other tips do you have for interviews over lunch and dinner? What has worked well for you in the past? If you have any questions or concerns, consider scheduling an appointment with your Graduate Career Consultant.

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