12:27 PM EST, January 21, 2013
Experts agree that a job interview over lunch calls for your best behavior — don't mistake the more casual atmosphere as an excuse to let your guard down.
"The meal is secondary to the job interview," says Jacqueline Whitmore, author of "Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work" (St. Martin's Press, $19.95). "You're there to talk about your qualifications, get to know the person and make a positive impression."
Employers often like conducting interviews over lunch because it gives them glimpses of your personality that they wouldn't see during a traditional interview.
"A lunch interview is certainly a time when the interviewer can see how polished a person is, and how they treat other people," says Beverly Y. Langford, author of "The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules For Business Success" (Amacom, $14.95). "How they relate to the wait staff- are they courteous, or do they treat them like they're on their beck and call — will clue them into how they'll probably treat support staff at work."
If your interviewer orders an alcoholic drink, don't take that as permission to order one for yourself.
"Some young recruits are asked if they want a glass of wine or a beer, and they think ‘Oh, I'm being given permission to drink,' but you should never drink in an interview," Whitmore says.
Order food that's easy to eat — anything that requires use of your hands is off-limits — and never answer a cell phone call, or let it ring in the first place.
"You should turn the cell phone off, leave it in the car, or have it on silent and let voice mail take the call," Whitmore says. "Very few calls would be as important as that meal you're having with a prospective employer."
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