One should never get too comfortable on a job interview – even if the situation seems casual, relaxed or nothing akin to a typical interview process. Too often a candidate lets his or her guard down when they are invited to spend a day in the field or perhaps at the job site to meet the people they might be working with. An invitation to lunch with a prospective boss or other team members isn’t just a social courtesy – it’s (interview) game on. The interview is just disguised as a social get-together.
As a candidate you must always remember that the job is not yours until you officially receive a JOB offer. – And then, you still must agree to the employer’s terms and ACCEPT the offer, and report to and START work on your agreed upon start date. That’s when you can exhale that breath you’ve been holding.
Too many candidates talk to prospective colleagues as if they are already hired! Our culture has created an atmosphere of familiarity which can be potentially damaging to a job seeker. As a candidate you need to remember that a lunch or a day in the field is just another interview and those that you’re spending time with are going to be asked by the hiring manager certain questions about what you said, what was discussed, how you acted and then offer their overall feedback on the time you spent with them.
As a candidate you are being asked to spend this time so that you can continue to be vetted before the official offer is made. Today this is happening more and more because employers know that outside an office situation, candidates are more likely to reveal their true selves which helps hiring managers better assess the individual’s “corporate DNA” and potential culture fit. Candidates that a company has high interest in are those most frequently invited to a meal, a day at the office, or a visit in the field to experience what a work day might be like, but you are still being considered – you have not yet been hired. “Breaking bread” is NO TIME TO LET YOUR INTERVIEW GUARD DOWN. There’s a well known tale that CEO Charles Schwab always makes a practice of inviting prospective hires to breakfast. Schwab arrives at the restaurant early and asks the restaurant to mess with the candidate’s order, telling the restaurant manager a good tip will accompany the arranged mess up. This mess up is part of Schwab’s vetting process – he wants to see the candidate’s response and how s/he deals with adversity, the unexpected…and how they interact with the server. Schwab says those unexpected moments are part of both life and business, and it gives him an opportunity to get a different look at a candidate’s behavior.
Here are some pointers to follow should you be invited to breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks with a prospective employer:
- Keep in mind that there are time constraints when a meal is set. As the candidate, you should never order something that might take a longer time to prepare.
- Don’t order dessert and coffee without first checking if the one who invited you has the time … make this meeting about the interview and not about the culinary dining experience!
- One drink or a glass of wine might be acceptable, but only if the company representative asked you to join them in having one. And, it’s never a good idea to have more than one drink of any alcoholic beverage.
- Think about what you order. One LLoyd client tells a story of a candidate ordering the restaurant’s specialty – a rack of ribs – which made for a very sloppy clean up of both the table and the candidate’s face and fingers. Needless to say no matter how desired or delicious this dish was for the candidate, it didn’t result in a job offer.
- Always be polite to the server and wait staff, don’t create an order that shows indecisiveness by instructing the waiter with what to leave off or add on to the meal. Watch your tone and your manners. It’s a good idea to see if the restaurant’s menu is online so you can preview it and have an idea of what you will order beforehand.
- Strive to keep your conversation about business, don’t get into the news of the day and avoid any topics considered controversial such as politics.
- Think about the meal’s ingredients and its’ stink potential (i.e. excessive garlic)
- Tamper your desire to ask for a doggie bag.
We have had candidates invited to company outings or to meet possible coworkers at Happy Hour after work. Again, your behavior, conversation, manners all matter. Sometimes these events are akin to a “final exam” whereas candidates perceive it as a celebration of hire – not yet!
You are being interviewed right up to the day you start work and even when you are unaware – how you treat a front desk person or even someone in the building parking lot may have impact on your consideration. You never know who has influence. Be mindful, be focused, be courteous – behavior does matter.
Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan might have said it best:
“Good manners open the closed doors; bad manners close the open doors!”