Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tips for Success in the Meal Interview

Although a rare occurrence, the job interview - or even networking meeting - conducted over a meal can be a dangerous minefield to navigate. There are several reasons that companies conduct these types of interviews. Often, hiring managers feel that they get a chance to see the "real you" over a meal or in a social setting because people may be more relaxed. Also, upon your hire you may be required to take clients or vendors out for meals. Before making the hiring decisions, leaders want to assess your manners and demeanor in an informal setting.

The "meal" may just be coffee or drinks or could be a breakfast, lunch, or dinner occasion. Regardless of when, what, or where your meal interview takes place there are some guidelines that you should consider before you go.

  • Think carefully about what you order. Don't order the most expensive item on the menu. Conversely, you also should order more than a side salad.
  • Don't order baby back ribs or other messy foods that are hard to eat and stay clean at the same time.
  • Never order alcohol, even if the interviewer is drinking. If the interviewer insists on ordering you an alcoholic beverage, just let the drink sit. Alcohol and interviews don't mix!
  • Be mindful of the fact that even if you are in a casual setting and a relaxed environment, this is still a job interview. Your dining partner is observing your behavior and your manners and listening to the answers you provide - just like in a traditional interview.
  • Pay attention to body language and non-verbal communication the same as you would in any other interview. Don't come across as too casual or comfortable in your posture, eye contact, and speech patterns.

Interestingly, there is a story that Henry Ford, of Ford Motor Company, often used meal interviews when hiring his management members. If you were out to eat with Mr. Ford and you salted your meal before tasting it, in his mind the interview was over. He believed that you would be closed minded and would make decisions without gathering the facts first - just from this small mealtime behavior.

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