It’s not unusual for interviews to be conducted over a meal. Sometimes it is a mere circumstance and easier for the interviewer to meet you at a restaurant. Other times it is that a decision maker wants to impress a candidate at the end of the interviewing process. One example would be that an interviewing process may take many weeks; going to lunch/dinner is a way to let the candidate know that the process is coming to the offer stage. Another example may be that a hiring manager might want to extend an offer to a candidate and feels that a meal might make it more personable. It should be obvious that basic table manners can “make or break” a final decision.

The following are basics for interviews that take place during a meal. 

  • Generally, it is recommended that you do not drink alcohol. It is imperative that you always remain at your best and mentally sharp . Alcohol can create a level of comfort and in a professional situation; comfort might not be a good idea.
  • However, if wine is suggested by your host, always allow the interviewer to make the selection. If you are asked to make the selection, select one that is moderately priced. Limit yourself to one glass of wine if you are put in this situation. If you feel that you would rather not partake, graciously decline. It is usually not necessary to detail reasons why you prefer not to drink.
  • Select meals that are “light” in nature. They should be easy to eat so you can focus on your conversation.
  • When ordering, follow your host’s lead if they order first, otherwise make a meal selection that is moderately priced.
  • When seated, place your napkin on your lap. Try not to leave the table unless you need to.
  • Sip your beverages, not gulp.
  • As your parents always told you, “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
  • Do not chew on ice. When people are nervous, they sometimes do this.
  • Wipe your mouth with a napkin often to insure a clean face.
  • Be courteous to everyone. The interviewer is watching how you interact with the hostess, the wait staff even the person who comes to clear your plate.
  • Lunch interviews by nature are more casual than traditional office interviews, so you’ll need to be prepared to make small talk. But remember, this is a business meeting, not a social event.
  • Say thank you, send the hiring manager a warm thank you email and handwritten note.


When interviewing over a meal, your focus needs to be on your interview. Even if it is the final interview of the interviewing process, you still need to be selling yourself. It is your job to sell yourself until your offer has been extended and accepted.

Rick Christensen

Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice Rick has been a career consultant for over 25 years, serving a very broad-based and diverse clientele. His specialties include effective group facilitation, one-on-one coaching and consultation at all levels including senior executives.

Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.

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