It's Not About the Food

The interviewing process can be harrowing.  It doesn't matter whether you are a college graduate going for your first real job or you are, ahem, a person of a certain age who has been downsized and now find yourself back in the job market...interviews are hard.

Just to add a layer of complexity on to a nerve-laden process is the...wait for it...interview over a shared meal.  Now what to do?

I'm asked, frequently, by interviewees of all ages...what's the right approach?  It seems that (rightly so) the interview lunch or dinner is seen as a more likely chance to get things wrong.

It doesn't have to be!

The first thing I suggest to someone who is stressed out over such an interview is to remember the first cardinal rule.

It is never about the food.

That doesn't mean that you can't enjoy what you are eating.  What it does mean is that you need to keep your eyes on the ball.  That "ball" is the person or persons sitting across from you.  They have chosen this opportunity to get to know you better and there is no better way to do that than over a shared meal.  Therefore, you will want to leave plenty of opportunity to engage them as well...so keep it simple so your attention is on them, and not what is on your dish.

Now for the next question...what about drinks (assuming all parties are over 21)?

Call me old-school but its best to keep it simple here as well.  Order a club soda with a splash of cranberry if you want to be fancy...now is not the time to order the $20 glass of wine.  For an interview, you want your full wits (because half-wits rarely get the dream jobs).  

This middle-of-the-road approach toward food and drink shows two things.  Firstly, you are taking the interview meal seriously (you can be relaxed and still take something seriously) AND it shows your prospective employer you value their resources.

And when the offer letter comes to you...you can crack open the champagne then!