In the May 31, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to handle job interviews… in a restaurant or bar:
The company I’ve been talking with informed me that our next interview will be at a nearby bar where we can all sit down and relax. The manager also mentioned that he and his group will have some specific questions this time. (In the first interview, I listened more than I talked.) What’s the protocol for interviewing in a public place? I guess they want to see how I act and how I would fit in. Can you offer any Do’s and Don’ts for a “relaxed” bar interview?
Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)
There is some conventional wisdom about interviewing over a meal or over a drink. All of it assumes such a meeting is a clever ruse where the employer is watching your manners and your eating habits, and possibly trying to get you “loosened up” so they can find out what you’re really like.
I caution you: Don’t make any of these assumptions. It’s a business meeting. Be businesslike.
A long time ago someone taught me to take others at face value and to always assume the best. It’s good advice. If it turns out someone is playing games with you, that should be enough to tell you what kind of people they are — and that you probably want nothing to do with them. As long as you are honest and sincere in your words and actions, the burden is on the other guy to act the same. I’ve found this personal policy works very well. If someone screws with me after I give him the benefit of the doubt, I never deal with him again. Word gets around.
Be yourself. Don’t get caught up in the meaning behind the interview location. Do what you would normally do in an interview. (If you don’t feel comfortable in bars, say so and ask for a change of venue.) If you are a woman and the interviewers are all guys and the bar is questionable, use your judgment and trust your instincts.
Order what you want to eat, but don’t spend too much of their money. Use common sense and be polite.
Don’t follow suit. If the boss orders beer but you don’t drink beer, don’t order beer. If you want seltzer, order seltzer. Don’t be someone you’re not…
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…Respect yourself and respect the employer. No games. Discuss whatever they want to discuss as long as you’re comfortable with it. Hopefully, they want to talk about the work. If you’re the one introducing topics, talk about the work. Contribute whatever information you think will help them see how you will do the job profitably for the company, and how you will fit into their social environment.
If you and they don’t fit together, this is the time to find out. If the meeting gets weird, order take-out.
Do the rules change when your interview is in a restaurant? How about in a bar? Have you had such interviews? How did you handle them?