Surviving a Lunch Interview

I always found lunch interviews to be the most frustrating experiences ever. There you are, given an opportunity to pig out in a grand cafeteria on corporate expense – so naturally, you stock up the tray to get your chow down. You sit down at the table across from your interviewer, and right as you’re about to take that first scrumptious bite, your interviewer asks you a question. You of course answer it completely, but before returning to the meal you’re asked a follow-up question, and then another one, and before you know it rapid fire Q/A begins. You do your best to answer each one … as your food gets cold … as your stomach growls … and as you watch the interviewer nodding to your comments with his/her mouth filled with that savory steak and potatoes you’re dying to devour. Why can’t the interviewer just go to the bathroom or receive a cell call already?!

This isn’t the interviewer’s fault by any means. After all, it is an interview, and their role compels constant question asking (silence is awkward). Additionally, this whole food tease leading to short-term starvation isn’t the worst consequence. You can get food stuck in your teeth, pass gas, get bad breath, spill your food and drink all over your interviewer, etc. It’s probably the most dangerous, error-prone part of the interview process (actually probably not … since you typically don’t get asked technically involved questions over food).

So here’s some advice to those who find themselves in similar situations. Sadly, it took me nearly three years of lunch interviews to discover these pointers:

  1. Eat a big breakfast. Lunch should be a snack.
  2. When you do eat lunch, order the soup with bread. Warms your body and soothes your throat. Simple to eat. Nothing gets stuck to your teeth. No need to wash the hands, so hands don’t get dirty for that final handshake. It’s not greasy (like pizza) so doesn’t reflect bad diet habits to your interviewer. Also, the bread soaks in the soup to make the meal filling plus give you additional energy for the rest of the day.
  3. Eat slowly, since your interviewer probably got more food than you. You don’t want to finish earlier than him/her. It tends to rush the other person. Your goal is to make the lunch round long and fun. Keep the conversation going but don’t over do it to the point where the interviewer starts to daze off. Ask questions when the interviewer runs out of questions (also gives you more time to eat!). Make the most of lunch to learn as much as you can about the group. Their insight will be super useful in the upcoming rounds. Just think of lunch as a break before the more technical rounds.
  4. Drink water. It really is the best drink ever. No chance of an upset stomach during or after the round. If you’re starving and know the soup + bread won’t fill you up (eating slowly helps fill you up though), get an Odwalla. It’s seriously a second meal.
  5. Don’t take notes. That’s too much IMHO. Keep it informal, unless the interviewer specifies otherwise.

That’s all I got. Nothing crazy.

Anyways, hope these pointers come in handy.


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