Don't Let a Lunch Interview Devour You


In the process of your job search, a potential employer has requested a lunch interview. If you're as gastronomically gracious as Animal House's Flounder, the idea might make your gut wrench. But then again, if your fridge is only stocked with frozen pizza and leftover mac 'n' cheese, a lunch interview could be a nice perk. The yin and yang of interviewing -- every action in the lunch interview holds a potential up-side or down-side.

Since most world-renowned chefs are likely too busy to provide job-hunting advice, we concocted our own tasty tips the best cooks might offer (had we actually asked them?).

Trotter's Law of Location:

Where to eat? If you are interviewing for a job located near you, you may be tempted to choose your favorite bistro. However, give the interviewer the first opportunity to decide. On the other hand, the interviewer might insist that you choose. Some interviewers believe that your choice of restaurant tells them something about you -- this is akin to insightful interview questions like 'If you were a spice, what spice would you be'? If this is the case, choose a place that is not too loud, has a variety of menu choices, has proven good service, is not overly pricey, and offers comfortable private seating. According to Trotter's Web site, 'It is important to Trotter that diners enjoy a perfectly balanced meal that continues to satisfy afterwards.' You should hope for the same satisfying effect from your lunch interview.

Emeril's Advice on Ordering:

Order something you enjoy, but try to get something you can eat with a utensil and that is unlikely to spill. A savory chicken breast or filet will do nicely. Cut sandwiches into manageable sections to eat. Spaghetti's tough to eat -- better wait until you go to your Nana's house to enjoy that. Stay away from ribs and corn on the cob. And nothing with too much BAM! You know -- spice, garlic or onions. After you eat something like that, losing out on a great job is as easy as breathing in and out!

Puck's Pronouncement:

Follow the lead of the interviewer regarding whether to order dessert or a coffee, a nice espresso maybe? If they ask you 'Would you like dessert,' reply with an answer that demonstrates thoughtfulness regarding the interviewer's time: 'Do you have time for a dessert or coffee perhaps?' Let the interviewer make the decision. If dessert is a go, be conservative in your choice -- a simple creme brulee or sorbet -- this is not the time for a decadent chocolate bomb or all-you-can-eat sundae!


Mom's Etiquette Edict: Mind your manners! Don't know which fork to use? Short one for the salad, long one for the entrée. Dessert fork's up top. Cut your meat with a knife, not your fork. Put your napkin on your lap, not in your shirt. Put your fork down after each bite while chewing. Small bites, don't shovel. Don't slouch. Bring a hanky, don't wipe your nose in the napkin. And for the love of Pete, say 'please' and 'thank you.'

Papa John's Juxtaposition:

Just in case you have to foot the bill, bring enough cash to cover the check. Don't assume the place will take credit cards. Leave the customary 15 to 20 percent tip. And remember to get answers about the company's financial status!

Justin Wilson's "What To Do When You Got Yourself in the Hot" sauce:

Spilled etouffee on the chief's wingtips? Don't overreact! Say you're sorry and ask your waiter for assistance. If you knock over your wine or water, dab the liquid so it doesn't run into your interviewer's or your lap and ask your waiter to replace your napkin. Then move on and refocus on the interviewer. If you dribble sauce on your shirt, make a quick dab with your napkin to wipe away the food residue. Don't try to demonstrate your stain removal skills by dunking your napkin in your water or club soda. Drop the item off at the dry cleaners later.

Julia Child's Comments on Chivalry:

This may seem old-fashioned, but if you are a man and are being interviewed by a woman, demonstrate a little chivalry. Not too much, mind you! Open the door for her, let her order first, but good heavens, don't order for her! Like Tabasco, a little adds flavor, too much and you'll find yourself burnt like toast placed too close to the broiler.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

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