Interviewing Candidates Over Lunch? Lettuce Help You With That

October 14, 2016

Legend has it that during lunch interviews, Henry Ford would observe if a candidate put salt on their food before tasting it. If they did, they wouldn’t get the job. Why? According to him, this simple act reveals that the candidate is a poor decision maker and doesn’t evaluate situations before taking action.

Now, I’m not recommending that you judge candidates as harshly as this, but there can be an underlying truth here. In fact, lunch interviews are becoming more common - not only do they boost the interview experience (candidates, like everyone, love free food) but also can be effective assessment method. At the heart of the lunch interview philosophy is the view that you can observe candidates in a more natural, relaxed setting and therefore genuinely get to know them.

On top of the answers candidates give to your questions, there are many more subtle ways to find out if they’re a fit for the role and your company. Here are some scenarios that can help you assess if the candidate should pasta test, as well as some tips to help you make sure you donut miss a beet(root).

Did the candidate turn up late? This could mean they lack time management skills.

Assessing a candidate's decision making abilities is key at a lunch interview. For example, do they choose their food slowly or quickly?

Are they fiscally responsible? Or they do take advantage of the free lunch and order the most expensive items on the menu?

Did they order something messy and difficult or a dish that’s easy to eat? The candidate and you have to multi-task over a lunch interview (eating and thinking at the same, now that’s tough). Are they aware of the situation?

Does the candidate dive straight into selling themselves, or are they a good listener with thoughtful questions?

Observe if the candidate respects others. Are they polite to the restaurant staff and do they have good table manners?

Wait until you have been seated and ordered before getting into the interview questions. There’s nothing worse than getting down to business and the restaurant staff interrupting to take your order (but if they do, please be polite).

If a candidate asks you a tough question, take a tactical bite and think about your answer while chewing. Genius.

Don’t order alcohol. You want to keep focused on selling the opportunity and assessing the candidate. But does the candidate order alcohol when you don’t? Perhaps they can’t take social cues.

Turn your phone off and don’t check it. Not even once. It’s rude. And if they check theirs, they are rude.

Remember you’re paying, so play it cool when it comes to the bill.

Last but not least, did the candidate follow up with an email thanking you for the chance to interview? Or did they take the free lunch and run?

Overall, taking a candidate to lunch is not only more fun than a regular interview (you get to eat!) but whatever behaviors they display during the meal are likely to pop up again in the work world. If you leave lunch feeling like something was off, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t hire that person. 

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*Image from Eat Pray Love

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