Lunch Interview Tips

How to choose the restaurant, and order a plate without getting flustered.

The let’s-do-lunch interview can be a minefield of potential problems. What type of restaurant would you choose if the selection is yours? What sort of food is best to order? Should you have a drink?

Selecting the venue

It is seldom that a candidate would be required to choose a dining option to meet for an interview. “But if you are picking the restaurant … pick something that is middle of the road,” said Kelly Dingee, a sourcing researcher and executive trainer for AIRS, an executive search firm. “You don’t want them to feel that they have just blown their whole expense account for the month, taking you out to lunch for this interview. But you also don’t want to look too casual.”

Deborah Brown-Volkman, a professional certified coach ( PCC ) and the president of a career, life and mentor coaching company, suggested that you find out what type of food the interviewer likes and then pick a place you know and where the service is good. Visit the restaurant the day before and reserve a good table. Get there early. “I would let the host, waiter or waitress know that you are there for a job interview and that you need to make a good impression,” she said.

Yes to fish. No to spaghetti!

Because you can expect to be doing more talking than eating, order something light. “You don’t want to be the last one done because you have been answering all of the questions,” Dingee advised. Use some common sense when ordering.
Select something that is safe and not messy to eat. Keep it really simple and streamlined. You don’t want to go with a marinara sauce if you are wearing a white shirt. Fish can easily be cut with a fork and is a preferable choice over spaghetti or rice or string beans.

“I wouldn’t get a salad because it is so messy,” Brown-Volkman noted.

Avoid alcohol

“James Bond can pull off a dry martini, shaken, not stirred. Not you. Staying away from hard alcohol is a smart move,” said Frank Risalvato, founder of the recruiting firm IRES Inc. “I wouldn’t go anywhere near hard alcohol during an interview. I would want to be focused. I would stick with an iced tea or a soft drink.”

Brown-Volkman said that even if the interviewer orders an alcoholic drink, you are not encouraged to do the same.

A single glass of wine could be the exception, said actress Deidrie Henry.

“I don’t think I would drink,” said Henry. “I follow the person I am with. If they order a glass of wine, I will order one glass, but if they were to order a strong drink, I just wouldn’t.”