A while back Shankar Vedantam, NPR’s social science correspondent, had an interesting segment on scientific research proving how eating the same food can bring people closer together. And it’s something you might want to consider if you’re having a job interview over lunch.
He interviewed Ayelet Fishback of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She and a colleague ran a series of food-related experiments, including one in which a group of volunteers playing union members and managers were negotiating hourly wages.
The two members of each pair were either both given candy, both given salty snacks or one received candy and the other salty snacks. It turned out that when each was eating something different it took twice as many rounds of negotiations to make the wage decision than if they were both eating the same thing.
The researchers admit that the process is probably unconscious. They don’t exactly understand how it works but suspect that eating the same food creates trust and fosters cooperation.
This may be something to keep in mind when you get together for a job interview that involves a meal.
Important tips to keep in mind for a lunch interview
But then there are also many other things to do:
- Prepare as you would for a normal interview, although often an invitation to a meal is the second or third interview, so you may have dealt with all the ordinary interview questions previously.
- Either way, taking you to lunch is a chance for the employer to observe how you act in a social situation and get to know you informally. Make sure you plan ahead for some interesting things to talk about (along with the usual answers to typical interview questions). Try to stay clear of anything controversial, including political subjects. Also keep the conversation professional and be careful what you say in general.
- Research the restaurant ahead of time to get an idea of the ambience and location. Study the menu and think about what you might like to order (in case you don’t want to order the same thing as the interviewer, although we suggest you do when possible). Also, if there’s something interesting you learned about the building it’s in or the food it serves, you can use that as a topic of conversation.
- Arrange a meeting place preferably in front of the restaurant, so you won’t have trouble identifying the person you’re meeting with. And if you’ve never met them look for their photo online so they’ll be easier to recognize.
- Dress professionally appropriate to the job you’ve applied for.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
- Practice a power pose to boost your confidence.
- Turn off your cell phone and don’t check it – not even once – during the meal.
- Try to relax and enjoy yourself.
Make sure to mind your manners
Practice proper etiquette:
- Don’t order the most expensive – or the cheapest – item on the menu.
- Don’t order alcohol, even if your host does. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions, and you might say something you didn’t intend to.
- Order something easy to eat.
- Be polite to the waitstaff.
- Wait until everyone receives their meal before you begin to eat.
- Eat slowly, and don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Make eye contact with the person interviewing you and others if more than one person comes.
- Don’t forget your manners. Say “please” and “thank you.”
- Try to eat everything, if possible, and never ask for a doggy bag.
- When finished, put your knife and fork on the plate and carefully fold your napkin and place it beside the plate.
- Let the host pick up the bill. You were invited.
Follow these rules, and your interview should be a success.
And don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note.