Earnest Robinson

Here's how to succeed at a lunch interview without it being awkward

Interviewing

Here's how to succeed at a lunch interview without it being awkward

Artwork by: Nadiia Zhelieznova

  • What is a lunch interview?
  • Why do companies do lunch interviews?
  • Is a lunch interview a good thing? 
  • What should I bring to a restaurant interview?                                                                                                   
  • How should you dress for a lunch interview? 
  • What should you not order at a lunch interview?
  • Should I pay for a lunch interview?
  • Key takeaways

Here’s exactly what you need to know about handling a lunch interview so it’s less awkward and you make the best possible impression on a potential employer.

The lunch interview can be a signal that all is moving in the right direction, and knowing what to expect and how to act can be a deciding factor in whether you get the job.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • What is a lunch interview?

  • Why do companies do lunch interviews?

  • Is a lunch interview a good thing?

  • What should I bring to a restaurant interview?

  • How should you dress for a lunch interview?

  • What should you not order at a lunch interview?

 

Following the steps laid out in this article will help any candidate succeed at a lunch interview without it being awkward.

What is a lunch interview?

Just as the name implies, the hiring organization invites the candidate to an interview while having lunch. To be clear, this is not a social invite to meet but a formal interview in a public setting such as a café or restaurant. 

The purpose of the interview, no matter the setting, is for the interviewer and the candidate to engage in a meaningful conversation to assess qualifications for an open position. Approach the lunch interview as if it were inside the hiring manager’s office or conference room.  

Expert Tip


Prepare for the interview by researching the hiring company and the open position. It is not enough to speak to your qualifications; you must also show how you will fit into the culture of the organization. Career.io comprehensive services can help you prepare for that important interview. 

Why do companies do lunch interviews?

While the lunch interview is still formal, the purpose of the lunch interview is to get to see the candidate in a much less formal environment. The hiring manager’s goal is to see you in a less controlled atmosphere. They want more of a sense of:

  • What is your personality like when relaxed?

  • How will you interact with others?

  • How do you deal with distractions?

  • Are you able to focus and block out the outside noise?

  • Will you be a good company representative in public?

Is a lunch interview a good thing? 

The lunch interview could be a sign of good things to come. If asked to interview over lunch, this could mean that the hiring manager would like to spend more time getting to know you and learning more about your personality when you are more relaxed. But remember, this is a formal interview, so don’t assume the job is in the bag and this is a celebratory welcome aboard meal. 

It’s also important to know that the lunch interview can turn from a good thing to a really bad thing in moments. Stay alert and focus on these details.

  • Do not get too relaxed.

  • Always remain professional.

  • Be courteous to everyone around you, especially the staff.

  • Keep in mind, although you are in a relaxed atmosphere, you still do not have to answer illegal or inappropriate questions that may disqualify you as the best candidate.

  • Don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, be polite. Avoid speaking poorly of a previous employer or anyone else. If your interview is over lunch, exhibit excellent table manners.” 

What should I bring to a restaurant interview?                                                                                                   

While the lunch interview is designed to be less stressful and put the candidate in a more relaxed environment, it remains a formal interview. And just like an interview inside an office, your goal as the interviewee is to present yourself as the most qualified candidate

Just as with any interview, there are several items you should bring to the interview:

  1. Your smile and best personality

  2. Talking points

  3. A professional portfolio that consists of several copies of your resume, samples of your work, endorsement letters, and professional recommendations from previous superiors

  4. Business cards

  5. Pen and pad

  6. Questions (Do not ask questions that are easily answered on the company website.)

Only hand over documents when/if asked for them as you don’t want to be fumbling with papers when the food arrives. Each situation is unique so follow the interviewer’s lead.  

How should you dress for a lunch interview? 

It bears repeating that the lunch interview remains a formal interview, and you should dress as if it were a traditional interview. How you would dress when going into an office interview is how you would dress at a lunch interview.

  • If the traditional interview requires formal business attire, then you will dress accordingly for the lunch interview.

  • If the position is less formal, business casual is more appropriate and is acceptable for the lunch interview.

  • Ensure that your clothing is clean and neat, and the same goes for your physical appearance.

Expert Tip


The restaurant may have a dress code, so check before going to the interview. For example, some places require men to have jackets and ties so you’d have to dress this way even for a less-formal interview.

What should you not order at a lunch interview?

Because this is an interview and not a social gathering, you will want to follow a few important guidelines when ordering at a lunch interview.

  • Try to follow the interviewer’s lead when ordering.

  • Ask for a recommendation from the interviewer.

  • Stick with foods that are easy to eat, not messy, and are normal to eat with your hands such as a sandwich or burger.

  • Stay away from foods with strong odors.

  • Do not consume alcohol.

Should I pay for a lunch interview?

Because you were invited to the lunch interview, you should not have to pay. Once the interview lunch is over and the check has been paid, thank the interviewer for their time and the meal.

Ask what the next steps are and when you should hear from them. Finally, follow up with a thank you note within 24 hours just as you would for an in-office meeting.

Key takeaways

  1. The purpose of the lunch interview is for the interviewer to see the candidate in a more relaxed environment.

  2. Remember to dress the same as if you are being interviewed in an office setting, but also check the restaurant for any required dress.

  3. Be sure to bring your professional portfolio and business cards along with a pen and pad.

  4. Follow the lead of the interviewer when ordering lunch and never consume alcohol.

  5. Thank the interviewer for their time and the lunch, ask about the next steps, and send a prompt thank-you note.

Earnest Robinson

Earnest is an experienced Career Coach and Resume Writer with expertise in providing professionals with the tools to effectively navigate the job search and prepare for a successful career. He specializes in training, coaching, and mentoring career seekers on how to gain and maintain a successful career filled with passion. Earnest believes true career success comes from being holistically balanced, and he blogs on health issues related to nutrition, physical fitness, and positive lifestyle change.

Share this article