THOUGHT PIECE the carling team

How To Prepare For A Lunch Job Interview

dining-tableInterviews are stressful at the best of times, but when you add food, drink and the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant into the equation, they can seem like a nightmare.  However, in certain sectors including the drinks industry, lunch interviews are becoming a more popularly used selection method.  In this article we want to help you plan for and succeed in a lunch interview.  While the advice we give in this article is specifically aimed at standing out at a lunch interview, we’re assuming that you’ve done all the preparation you’d do for a normal interview.

So when it comes to a lunch interview, how can you be sure to impress?  

Here are our Top Ten Tips:

1. Don’t stress too much.  The fact that a prospective employer is prepared to invest financially and time-wise to this extent almost certainly means that you’ve got past the first hurdles, so that’s good news. It’s completely normal that an interview setting stresses you, but try desperately not to stress even more because it’s going to involve eating…after all you’ve been doing it for years and you do it every day!
2. Check out the setting beforehand.  As soon as you know which restaurant you’ll be eating at, make a point of checking it out.  While you mightn’t necessarily have the budget to book a table and pay for a lunch beforehand, you can check it out online and look at the menu.  If you’re able to visit the restaurant, by having a look inside, you’ll get a notion of the level of distraction and noise you’re likely to have to deal with on the day. If your budget permits, book a table and you’ll be able to have a trial run.
3. Remember your manners.  It sounds obvious, but there are few times when you need to remember your manners more than while lunching with a prospective employer.  Making sure you tick all the boxes from an etiquette point of view is a given that you can’t afford to get wrong.  If you’re in any doubt about which cutlery to use, how to leave your knife and fork to show you’ve finished eating or any other details that might prove a showstopper, check them out online or with savvy friends and family.
4. Get there early and make sure you’re on form.  Getting to the restaurant well before your interviewer makes great sense.  While you don’t want to look as if you’re lurking on the street for hours, good timing would be to arrive a good 10 minutes beforehand so you have time to collect your thoughts and calm yourself.  Remember, there will be lots going on around you and keeping focused will be more difficult in this setting.  Make sure you are in great form physically and have your focus completely on the task in hand.
5. Avoid saying things you wouldn’t say in a formal interview.  While the informal setting of a lunch interview might lull you into a false sense of security, it’s essential that you don’t let your guard down and say anything you wouldn’t say in a formal interview.  By all means respond in an appropriately relaxed way but don’t give away too much.
6. If it’s a group lunch interview, be seen to share the limelight.  If there is a group of interviewees, the temptation could be to try to steal the show by dominating the conversation.  It’s essential that you resist this temptation.  You’re more likely to be valued if you’re seen to include people who don’t participate than by taking over.
7. Be ready for small chat and more dialogue than in a formal interview.  While there are several points that you simply must get over during your lunch interview and there will certainly be standard interview questions in the discussion, there’s also likely to be a fair amount of chitchat.  Be prepared to be able to talk coherently about things that are happening in the news; holidays; hobbies and the likes.
8. Use your time wisely… eat to buy thinking time!  If you get asked an awkward question, be clever and make out that you’re in the middle of chewing…this will give you time to reflect before you respond!
9. Choose wisely.  When it comes to choosing your food, the best advice is to let others take the lead.  It’s unlikely that an interviewer will put an interviewee in the situation of having to order first, so listen carefully to what the interviewer orders.  Things worth thinking about are choosing something that’s easy to eat; that isn’t the most expensive item on the menu and that isn’t too different to the rest.  Fitting in food-wise is always a safe bet.  When it comes to alcohol, it’s normally not a great idea to partake at a lunch interview, but if everyone at the table is automatically served a glass, you can say cheers and sip gently to be polite.
10. Stay cool at bill time and remember to say thank you.  When it comes time to pay the bill, the situation is clear; your interviewer has invited you and it’s them who will pay the bill.  That said; don’t forget to say Thank You.

One important thing to remember in a lunch interview situation is that your prospective employer has invited you for an interview in a restaurant situation to see how you might behave with clients in that situation.  Try to put your nerves aside, enjoy it and be yourself.