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How to Survive a Lunch Interview

In an earlier era, job interviews were almost always formal affairs that involved a thirty-minute conversation in an on-site office or conference room setting. Employers would sit down with potential candidates in a clean, quiet professional place free of distractions and ask a series of questions designed to assess the candidate's readiness for the job at hand.

But in the current job search landscape, a new format seems to be on the rise: the lunch interview. There are several reasons why employers may choose to hold an interview over a table at a restaurant or coffee shop instead of an office. In some cases, these employers are start-ups operating on a thin shoestring, and their newly-established or not-yet-furnished office spaces are insufficient for the interview process. In other cases, holding interviews over lunch can save time. Sometimes employers choose a lunch interview in order to observe how the candidate responds to distraction or behaves in a real world setting. In any case, if you're invited to a job interview that takes place in a restaurant, keep these tips in mind.

1. Stay cautious.

While lunch interviews are becoming slightly more common, they're still a rarity. And as with any odd or out-of-place behavior on the part of an employer, this may indicate a red flag. So keep your guard up and ask as many questions as you answer. Why did the interviewer choose this venue? Is the company financially stable? Where exactly will your potential workplace be located? Make sure this venue isn't a sign of instability or disrespect for your candidacy.

2. Stay calm and relaxed.

Don't be disconcerted by the noise and activity around you. Interviews are always a little nerve wracking, but with the added challenge of chewing through a messy sandwich while describing your professional background, the lunch venue can easily undermine your composure. Just mind your table manners and stay focused. Try not to order anything that's difficult to eat while talking.

3. Stay on track.

You have a specific allergy, or your interviewer has complex food restrictions, or the table top is strangely sticky, or the service is slow, or there's a beetle swimming across the surface of your gazpacho. As you (or your interviewer) deal with this, stay focused on your elevator pitch and the questions you have about this company. Relax, but don't relax so much that you miss important opportunities to get your message across. And keep in mind that your interviewer may be carefully observing your response to these challenges.

4. Don't touch the check.

This venue wasn't your decision and the check is not your responsibility. Leave it alone. If you find yourself paying the tab for any reason at all, run from this job, don't walk.

5. Follow up.

After a restaurant interview, it's especially important to follow up with a polite thank you note within two days. Use your note to thank your interviewer for the meal and repeat some of the key highlights of both your conversation and your candidacy.

Stay Flexible During Your Job Search

Your job search will be easier and will bring greater success if you stay flexible and prepare for the unexpected. Just like your resume and cover letter, your interview should bring out your best and highlight your strengths, talents and charms…no matter where it takes place. Visit MyPerfectResume for more interview and job search guidance.

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