Lately I have been meeting with a lot of candidates over lunch.  I like doing this because it is a little less formal and it gives me and the candidate a chance to have a more candid conversation. However, for some, it could add new layers of stress to the situation.  The best way to avoid that stress, plan ahead.

I think the biggest thing to think about when it comes to a lunch meeting is what to eat.  While I have never made a hiring decision based on what someone chooses to eat, the candidate’s comfort level may change when making a poor lunch decision. Let’s say you order yourself a burger and then as soon as you take that first bite a giant glob of ketchup falls right on your shirt. The rest of the lunch you will be self-conscience about the stain and even scared to take another bite.  So what should you order?

I suggest planning ahead whenever possible.  Most likely you will be told where you are going for lunch ahead of time.  Check out the restaurant.  Look at their menu and have a plan.

There are definitely some things you should avoid.  Anything overly sauced.  No one wants to discuss your work history while you are gnawing on a giant hunk of ribs. Also, steer clear of things that require excessive chewing.  I know a kale salad might sound like a safe choice but you might regret it while you are trying to chew through that fibrous leaf.  Above all else, stay away from the kids menu.  Chicken nuggets and fries might seem safe, no excess chewing or sauce to make a mess with.  However, I personally would have a hard time taking you seriously.

You might be worried by now that nothing is safe during an interview.  Not true.  Try to order things that require a fork and knife.  This way you can avoid sticky fingers and a ring of sauce around your mouth. Opt for a spinach or mixed green salad instead of kale, much easier to chew.  If all else fails, take a cue from your interviewer, or even ask them for a suggestions of what’s good at the restaurant.

The point of meeting over lunch, dinner or drinks, is to be more comfortable.  Doing a little planning ahead of time will ensure your confidence.  Maybe these suggestions won’t work for you.  There isn’t one perfect meal to order. Instead, research your restaurant, brush up on your table manners and prepare for traditional interview questions.

By Caitlin Mandeville | People Science Talent Advisor I