Interviews Can Happen Anywhere: Breaking Down the Mealtime Interview
Interviewing for a job can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Over the years, I’ve interviewed for many jobs, both as a student and as a professional; one thing I've learned from most of my interviews - do your research and be yourself.
As the world comes around and gets back to normal, I imagine we will see less video interviewing and more in-person interviews. The TextNow blog did a great article on best practices for video interviewing - give it a read, and we'll discuss how to prepare for a job interview over a meal, be it a Zoom meal, or soon (fingers crossed!) in person.
Eating in front of people can already be anxiety inducing. Add a job interview to that anxiety, and that's a lot for anyone to handle at once. But it could happen, and you must be equipped to handle it.
When TextNow was still in the office, we’d invite those interviewing to have lunch with our team - eating lunch together and taking that time to enjoy co-workers and to connect outside of Slack or a conference room. (Our communal lunches are big part of the TextNow office culture.)
So how should you eat? How can you talk while eating? How will the conversation go?
For the answers to those and many other questions, here's our guide to having a successful mealtime interview:
Research the location
Where are you going? Will you be eating in the office or at a restaurant? Do you know how to get there? What if you hit traffic? Make sure you know the location of the meeting, and how you'll get there.
- Download Google Maps or another tool on your TextNow phone to ensure you arrive on time.
- Checkout the reviews for the place you are going - is it fancy or casual?
- The location should be the first thing to consider - so educate yourself ahead of time.
Do your prep work
You probably won't need to bring much. Your resume, and maybe a notepad is about all you should need.
It’s important to review the job description before meeting. Do a LinkedIn search on who you are eating with, to make sure you're prepared for the interview.
There are a lot of great resources online (like Glassdoor) to dig into common interview questions and other things to be aware of with regards to the company you're interviewing for.
Munchie or drink?
Research the menu before arriving to have an idea of the menu items and general price ranges.
Dress to impress
This is your time to shine! Make sure your outfit matches the company and your personality. Business casual is always acceptable, unless the company is a formal environment then you might need to wear a suit. If you wear a tie, flip it back while eating.
Arrive on time
10-20 minutes early is always best, buffer in time for traffic or delays on the train and public transit. Also, make sure your phone is charged!
Know your surroundings
Another good practice when you get to the restaurant is to ask the host where the restroom is ahead of time, so you're not trying to find it during the interview.
Time to eat!
- Research the menu before arriving to have an idea of the menu items and general price ranges.
- Usually, the first 10 minutes will be an ice breaker or time get to know each other - don't jump right into business.
- When ordering pick something more budget friendly.
- Listen to what the other person is ordering, before ordering the most expensive item.
- Stay away from having alcohol - don't fog your interview experience. you'll always have time to drink with the team if you get the job offer.
- Stick to ordering water. You don't want to be worried about spilling on yourself or getting something on your shirt.
- Order something simple that is easy to eat.
- Things to stay away from: Red sauces, spicy food, French onion soup, spaghetti, big sandwiches, burgers. Something like pasta Primavera is ideal, or a salad.
Think about the awkward bites
Something that can be so awkward is when you are asked a question right after you take a bite or ask the interviewer a question right when they take a bite.
- Be cognizant of the potential for awkwardness.
- The best practice is to take small bites.
- The best time for you to eat is when you ask them a question to eat while they are answering.
- One rule of thumb is that if you have finished your meal faster than they have, you've probably been talking too much.
- Try not to ask them a question right when they have taken a bite. This seems simple, but it's important to minimize awkward moments.
- Also, this will probably be more of a conversation as opposed to a formal Q&A - think about stories of your past successes, how you’ve overcome issues, and how you manage your tasks.
Most of the time the company you are meeting with will cover the bill. You can humbly offer to pay and when they say inevitably say "no problem," and hank them with sincerity. Never assume they will pay. Definitely let them pay however. It’s all part of the process.
Always end with a follow-up
Send a thank you note to who you met with and follow-up, via email or call, with the recruiter as well. Make sure you have no typos in your thank you. Details matter. It’s important to understand the complete interview process, like how we've outlined ours in our TextNow interview process this article.
Now that you're armed with knowledge. it's time to go out and crush that interview!
And speaking of interviews, if you'd like to have a lunch (or any other meal) job interview with TextNow, check out our open positions on our Careers page!