A reader writes:
I have been networking to try and find a job as an attorney or two years! Finally, one of my contacts has been able to get me an interview with one of the most prestigious law firms in Utah. At first I thought this would give me an inside track on getting the job offer, then the interviewer asked to do the interview during lunch. This has caused a lot of anxiety. Is this a serious interview or is he just doing a favor for my contact? Is this such a hassle that he can’t take time during his normal work hours to do it? What if he asks me where I want to eat? What type of place should I choose? What if he takes me to McDonalds? How should I deal with the check (I assume he’s buying)? You can see the thoughts I have been having. What do you think?
You are freaking yourself out unnecessarily, to the point that you’re not going to be able to eat without instantly vomiting on this poor guy. Take a deep breath!
First, no, I would not assume that a lunch interview means that it’s not a serious interview or that it’s such a hassle that he can’t take the time to do it during his normal work hours. Some people just operate this way — if there’s a candidate they’re interested in talking to, sometimes their default is to meet over lunch or coffee, particularly if they don’t interview a lot of people as part of their normal job. It’s not uncommon.
If he’s like most lunch interviewers, he will probably suggest a place to eat. But if instead he asks you, just suggest a mid-priced place near his office. While some people do hold interviews in more casual restaurants (although usually more along the lines of a Chipotle rather than a McDonald’s), the more common option is to do it in a sit-down restaurant with service at your table, so if you’re put on the spot, you should suggest a place like that.
Assume that he is picking up the check. This is a business expense for his company. This is always the case with any lunch interview, but you can be extra confident that it’s the case with “one of the most prestigious law firms” in your state. Seriously. They’re buying.
Let’s see, some other things that you should keep in mind:
* If you’re concerned about what’s appropriate to order, take your cues from him. If he orders an appetizer, entree, and dessert, do something roughly the same. If he orders water and an appetizer and no entree, restrain the price of your own meal accordingly. Either way, don’t be the only one ordering dessert.
* Don’t order alcohol.
* Don’t order anything that’s really messy to eat, like barbecue or tacos, or anything that you know from experience gets stuck in your teeth, like spinach.
* If you know where you’re eating in advance, look at its menu online ahead of time, so that you can decide what to order in advance, rather than spending a lot of time deciding when you’re there.
* Be unfailingly polite to the wait staff. (You should always do this, of course, but in case for some reason you don’t, now is the time to start.)
This probably won’t be the last lunch interview you encounter in life. Don’t agonize over it, and prepare as you would for a normal interview, and you’ll be fine.