Lunch Interview Etiquette

Mastering an interview in an office environment can be tough enough. But throw in food, unpronounceable menu items, and an abundance of utensils, and speaking to a hiring manager might be the last thing on your mind – don’t let this happen!

Lunch interviews are bittersweet. Yeah, you score a free meal, but you also have to prove your social etiquette skills, which you may not have given a passing thought to since the last time your grandmother reprimanded you for propping your elbows up on the table.


Here are some basic etiquette tips to keep in mind:


Interview First, Food Second

It’s reasonable to assume that lunch is integral to your lunch interview – but it’s really not. Of course you’re not going to sit there and starve, but your main focus should be addressing your interviewer’s questions. If you appear to be more interested in your food than your dining companion, they’ll quickly lose interest in you. If you bury your head in a plate of salad—neglecting crucial elements of an interview like eye contact and ability to hold a fluid conversation—you’re going to lose points very quickly.

Make sure you’re directing questions at your interviewer as well. Not only will this allow you to learn more about who is sitting across from you, but it will also allow you to steal a few bites of your food!


Table Manners

A primary purpose of a lunch interview is to evaluate how you behave socially, outside of an office. Thus, it’s essential to bring your manners to the table. Don’t talk with your mouth full; say “please” and “thank you”; and put your napkin on your lap. It may be easy to let the basics fly out the window when you’re under pressure, but do your best to stay focused and remain polite.


Order Smartly

You love barbeque ribs. The chosen locale for your interview has the best barbeque ribs in town. Do you order the barbeque ribs? No, dear job seeker! You DO NOT order the barbeque ribs!

When you’re out on a lunch date with the hiring manager, order something that’s easy to eat and won’t cause a giant mess. The recruiter will not take the person seriously who has sauce all over his face or a stain on his collar shirt.

Secondly – if you can – look at the menu beforehand so you don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what you want. And finally, don’t opt for the booze. Even if you can handle your alcohol, it’s not the classiest thing to order if you are on an interview. Stick to the rule of ordering something simple and standard – nothing that’s going to make you gag in the interviewer’s face when it touches your lips.


Don’t be intimidated by the lunch interview. Yeah, there’s a lot more to think about, but if you relax a little and go in there with confidence, you may find that you actually enjoy yourself.


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