5 Tips for Handling a Nurse Practitioner Job Interview at a Restaurant

The final interview for my first nurse practitioner job occurred in a restaurant. I met the physician interviewing me at the clinic and she suggested we go to lunch. You can imagine my surprise when she told me she had driving her Harley motorcycle to work that day so I would need to drive us to our destination. Thankfully my old Jeep (think NP student budget) was somewhat clean. 

We climbed into my clamoring SUV with it’s unidentified squeaks and rattles and headed to a local chain restaurant. Over large salads, I accepted my very first NP job offer. While I did get the job, interviewing in the restaurant setting came with its own set of awkward interview scenarios. What if you order the wrong thing? What do you do when the check comes? Is it okay to order a cocktail? So, how do you avoid a major flub if your next nurse practitioner job interview takes place in a restaurant?

Interviews at restaurants can be arranged in an attempt to keep the interaction discreet between the two parties. Other times, the informal setting can serve as a way for the employer to get to know candidates on a more personal and intimate level, either as a precursor to a more formal interview or as a follow up interview wherein the employer may be introducing you to other colleagues you’d be working with. Whatever the reason may be, going to a job interview in a restaurant certainly comes with a different set of challenges that nurse practitioners need to be prepared for.

1. Prepare for the interview itself

Though a nice change of scenery and certainly more informal, meeting over a meal for a job interview can make the setting feel too relaxed; causing you to become lost in conversation and ultimately caught off guard when standard interview questions are mixed into small talk. So although the setting is more conversational and intimate, remember that it is still a job interview and you should prepare for it as such.

Before the interview, spend some time researching the company and the person you’re meeting with. Review the job description and make a comparative list of your qualities and attributes as they relate to the position. Prepare how you’ll answer common interview questions by doing a couple of practice rounds so that when the conversation switches from casual dialogue, you’ll be ready. If this is a second interview, it’s wise to refresh yourself on the research you did previously as well as look over any notes you made. You may also want to come up with a list of follow up questions you’d like to ask the employer now that you’ve had time to mull over the first interview.

2. Research the restaurant

Spending too much time looking over the menu during your interview can take away from precious time that could be spent engaging with the employer; while glossing over the menu and picking something on a whim might mean you chose a potentially disastrous meal, like spaghetti or baby back ribs. As part of your interview preparations, review the menu online and pick out a few items out that you might order, even if you’ve been to the restaurant before. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the place you’re meeting at; getting a good idea of the location and a feel for how casual or classy the restaurant is.

3. Arrive Early

Arrive a few minutes early to the restaurant, as you should if the interview were in any other setting, so you don’t keep the potential employer waiting. If the interviewer has not arrived yet, do not asked to be seated; wait for him or her inside the entrance of the restaurant and do not go to the bar and order a drink, even if it is happy hour.

4. What to Order

Whether you had time to look the menu over beforehand or not, order carefully and conservatively. Do not order the most expensive entree on the menu and as previously mentioned, don’t order something that will require you to eat with your hands like a burger, wings, etc., as these items are bound to be messier than a dish that’s easy to cut into.

An interview is not the time to lower your inhibitions and impair your judgment by relaxing with an alcoholic beverage. If you’re interviewer orders a drink, avoid following their lead even if you feel you may seem judgy for not partaking. While some candidates assume that it’s okay to follow the leader in this scenario, a series of experiments done by the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business found that alcohol consumption by job candidates selectively influenced their perceived intelligence and hire-ability by bosses who were mildly intoxicated themselves. The study also found that merely holding an alcoholic drink might make others view you as less intelligent. Therefore, it’s in your best interest not to order any alcohol. Instead, save it for happy hour with your new colleagues once you’ve landed the job.

5. Check, please!

Although it may be tempting to impress the potential employer by picking up the check when the meal comes to a close, don’t. It is customary in these types of situations for the interviewer to pay and trying to pay the check yourself will reflect poorly on you and will make you look disingenuous. As the bill is being paid, do be sure that you ask about any next steps. Genuinely thank your interviewer for their time and for the meal as you’re leaving the restaurant and follow up afterwards with a formal written thank you note.

By preparing appropriately for the setting, an interview in a restaurant is a great opportunity for you to highlight your skills and personality in a less formal and more intimate environment.