Lunch Interviews: Trial By Knife And Fork

Lunch Interview

Photo by: nSeika

What do you think about lunch interviews?

As a jobseeker you could be subjected to a wide variety of interviews. One of them is the dreaded lunch interview. During a lunch interview you generally meet the Director/VP/Manager or even members of the team. This type of interview can be very confusing because there are no rules. At least, in my experience they’ve always been different and there is no standard lunch interview process.

Judge and Jury

I’ve taken part in lunch interviews that are set up to include the candidate, the manager and the team. When it’s over and the candidate has left everyone is asked to score the candidate or give their opinion on them.

On other occasions I’ve seen team members having no real impact on the interview at all. They just eat lunch and even leave before lunch is finished. They don’t even get to give their input in terms of whether they approved of the candidate. In this case the manager just makes the decision and then informs the rest of the team.

Just you and the Judge

There are also the one-on-one lunch interviews. Generally this type of interview is loved by managers and hated by recruiters. Hiring managers don’t always enjoy the interview process given the formal nature of it all. Or maybe a hiring manager has a personal issue with the recruiter. As such, suggesting a one-on-one interview allows the hiring manager to bypass the formal environment of a closed office and replace it with an informal environment.

Relax..It’s just Lunch

No one likes to see someone uncomfortable or nervous, especially recruiters and hiring managers. You may think we love seeing you squirm but we jus’t don’t. We want you to do really well because it makes our lives easier. When a candidate is very nervous it effects the whole interview and everyone involved. The panel feels for the candidate and wonders why they can’t just relax. This is where the recruiter comes in. It’s the responsibility of the recruiter to create a relaxed environment for the interview. That way everyone can feel comfortable enough that personalities come out rather than just a formal back and forth Q&A.

I’ve taken part in many lunch interviews where the hiring manager was disappointed by the candidate. Often the hiring manager will say they thought the candidate would have done better if they took it more seriously. And this my friends, is what really bothers me about this type of interview.

In your typical formal interview everyone knows what to expect. The recruiter outlines what is going to happen and how long it will take. Recruiters don’t even attend most lunch interviews so the hiring manager has more to do here. Usually the hiring manager and the candidate start lunch with very different ideas. The hiring manager still wants the candidate to impress them and to sometimes take charge of the conversation. The candidate on the other hand feels a little out of their element and waits for the hiring managers cue before getting into anything too serious. In other words people tend to get confused about who is leading this dance.

Other Types of Interviews:

Phone Interview: These are often very short and can take the form of a phone screen to see if you have the minimum requirements for the role. These can also even replace a face-to-face interview and be done on a conference call with an interview panel.

Video Interview: These are becoming increasingly popular as more people feel comfortable video chatting using technologies like skype et al. A side benefit of video interviews is that recruiters and companies take note of the appearance and interpersonal skills of the candidate, much of which is lost on phone interviews.

Technical Interview: This interview will emphasize knowledge and will probably involve a few tests. Get your pencils out nerds!

At the End of the Day

No matter which type of interview you are subjected to, you need to be ready. Understand your audience and tell them what they want to hear. You need to communicate properly and feel comfortable talking about yourself, your career, and your biography. It always comes down to confidence, the relevance of your experience, and the skills you bring to the table.