Preparing for a Lunch Interview

Three people eating in a restaurant

Doostang, a career network site, has a great post on their blog that talks about about how to handle the lunch interview. This post intrigued me because of a job interview that I went on several years ago that included a lunch component.

No, I didn’t get the job — I totally bombed the interview because I didn’t keep the conversation going during lunch. There were excuses I had for why I did so poorly:

  • Even though I chose a menu item that wasn’t necessarily messy, I kept imagining that some of it would squirt out all over my chest.
  • I subconsciously didn’t want the job (really, I didn’t; after the interview was over, I drove home wondering what I would do if I was offered the job because I had misgivings about working for the person who would be my boss).
  • Someone new was added to the interviewing panel right at lunch.

Of course, those lame excuses didn’t change the fact that I committed the #1 sin of interviewing.


Yes, you should prepare for a lunch interview. It involves more than just answering their questions; you need to be engaging by asking them questions and stimulating the conversation in other ways. And, you need to make sure that you don’t accidentally spit a piece of food on the hiring manager’s face (thank goodness, I didn’t do that!)

A good way to prepare for this type of interview is to go with a friend out to lunch or dinner for a mock lunch interview. Treat this exactly as you would a job interview lunch, including turning off that cell phone or silencing it. (Your friend should dock points from you if you are texting all night or if you take any calls, save for a babysitter.) Make sure the friend critiquing you is someone who will give you honest feedback about how you conduct yourself both verbally and non-verbally.

If you need to stay home for whatever reason, another option is to video yourself and a friend doing a simulation of a lunch interview. Even though it would be in your own home, you want to treat it the same way you would if you were in a restaurant. That means no distractions from kids, dogs, spouses, phones, etc. Then, when you look at the video, be very honest about what you did well and what you didn’t. Get a second/third/fourth opinion, too.

Oh, and I want to throw in a tip for your next lunch interview: bring dental floss! After lunch is over, excuse yourself to use the ladies’/mens’ room and check your teeth. You don’t want anything stuck in there for the last part of your interview.

Not that I’ve been embarrassed like that in an interview. But in everyday life? Oh, yes…

One morning, we were off to a late start. So I quickly ate my bowl of Cheerios and blueberries, got the kids ready, and out the door we went. My daughter was dropped off at school, and my son and I had to hit the grocery store. I ended up running into a few people I knew. I chatted them up, had some laughs, and was on my way. After getting things put away, I went into my bedroom and smiled as I walked past a mirror. Wait a minute… what is that? Upon further inspection, I was horrified to see that I had a blueberry seed wedged in between two of my front teeth.

I spent all morning in the public eye with this dark thing hanging off my teeth.

Don’t let this happen to you, especially in an interview.

Image courtesy of Kathy

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