Over A Meal Interviews

Employers may extend an offer for an interview to occur over a meal.  In which case, it is still extremely crucial to treat this environment with the same level of professionalism that you would any other interview.  Professional dress, timeliness, appropriate conversation, etc. is all still just as important even if in a more casual environment.

There are multiple reasons that an employer may prefer to conduct an interview or part of the interview over a meal.  If both the interviewer(s) and interviewee are unable to make other timing work or aren’t able to step away from their roles at a time other than over a noon hour, this is a convenient way to ensure that the interview can still be conducted in a timely manner.  Some employers may not be prepared for others in the office or company to know that a position is being filled or hiring is happening, so a location outside of the work environment may be preferred. If the position in question will require meals with stakeholders or recruitment of some sort during lunches, this may also be the employers way of gauging how the interviewee will behave themselves in those environments if hired for the role.

Tips for navigating Over A Meal Interviews:

  1. Even if the meeting will be happening at a more casual restaurant, still plan to dress “one step up” from what the job you are applying for would require for day to day attire.  You can also assume that the interviewer will likely be coming from work, so they will be in their typical dress for the work they do.
  2. Remember to be polite and use common table manners.  The employer will likely be noting how well you treat host/hostess, wait staff, food servers, etc.  Using “Please” and “Thank you” can certainly go a long way.  With regard to table manners, just make sure you aren’t being too casual, sit properly, elbows off the table, etc.
  3. If the restaurant is one unfamiliar to you, consider mapping out how you will get there and also determine the parking situation.  You want to make sure you are still prompt and arrive in a timely manner, so having this all determined ahead of time can help keep you on schedule.  If you aren’t sure about how formal or casual the dining is, look it up online or even consider going in advance to check out the atmosphere, food options, etc.
  4. People often ask, “Should I drink if the interviewer does?” and “What should I order for food?”.  With regard to both questions, the NDSU Career and Advising Center would typically recommend following the interviewers lead.  For drinking alcohol during an interview, it isn’t typically advised as you want to be sure to stay sharp throughout.  If the interviewer should order a bottle of wine for the whole table to share, having one glass would be appropriately.  Declining is also 100% acceptable.  For food choice, don’t go for the most expensive or elaborate courses on the menu.  Rather, aim for a meal that is easy to eat with a fork that will reduce risk of mess, crumbs, etc.
  5. Reviewing Dining Etiquette ahead of time.  Various departments or Student Organizations offer Dining Etiquette workshops and seminars throughout the school year, so consider attending one of those events or doing your own independent research into appropriate dining behaviors.
Interviewing