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We typically arrange interviews without a lunch break but have realized that is too tough on our candidates. Interviews are about 5 hours long.

What is the best practice about coordinating lunch with your candidate? Do you take them out to lunch/order in and eat together? Or give them space and let them eat alone.

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    How long are these interviews going for? Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 4:28
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    Maybe reduce the length of the interview. 5 hours seems like a really long time.
    – camden_kid
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 12:09
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    Wow.. If I were interviewing for a position, nothing short of the Presidency would get me to attend a 5 hour interview... How successful are these enormous interviews in getting you the best candidate who wants to stay with you? Consider shortening the interview, not worrying about lunches.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 13:57
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    I don't think it makes sense to comment on, or advise about, the interview length, since that's not the question here and we don't know any relevant details we might want to evaluate it. Yes, many interviews are brief. But I've been involved in onsite interviews that lasted three days - they were somewhat common and expected in that context, and they were perfectly effective at finding good candidates.
    – dwizum
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 15:24
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    Five hour interviews without a lunch break? Let me guess - you are finding good candidates but they keep turning you down? Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 16:27

4 Answers 4

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You could take them out or bring food in, whichever works best for your setup.

But whatever you choose to do, let them know ahead of time, and ask if they have any food preferences or allergies. That way you won't provide a pepperoni pizza to someone who only eats Kosher, or a sub sandwich to someone who is gluten intolerant.

That also lets them know that there will be food, and whether they will be going out to eat or eating in. Letting them know can ease some of their stress. And how they handle themselves while eating, hopefully while more relaxed, can help you assess them better as well.

The company should pay for the interviewee's meal, of course. And if you go out to a place and the interviewee orders the most expensive item and treats the wait staff poorly, you have learned something valuable, much more valuable than the cost of one meal.

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    Yes, this is the best answer. Let them know the day's schedule (always good regardless) - include lunch - and most importantly emphasise it is optional, not part of the interview, and give them an easy out if they prefer to bring lunch because of their diet, etc.
    – davnicwil
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 11:42
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    On the other side, if they agree to eat lunch with you, it's a great opportunity for a more relaxed atmosphere to get a feel for their personality. Be sure to determine before hand if you/your company will pay for the meal. I've sat in on a couple of these lunches, and made hiring decisions based on what was heard over lunch.
    – DWShore
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 17:09
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    @DWShore The company should ALWAYS pay for the interviewee's meal, if the meal is part of the interview. And yes, a meal can be a very valuable addition to an interview. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 18:33
  • An employer I used to work for did all day and multi-day interviews. For meals, we would give the candidate choices of options for us to take them out, or offer that they could have a "lunch hour" and be on their own (and our company would reimburse if they spent money on lunch). Some candidates would choose to take the time to themselves, which is totally understandable, when you consider how intense a long interview can be (especially for an introvert, or someone who gets nervous about eating around new people).
    – dwizum
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 12:41
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Assuming your team is large enough, lunch should be with team members that aren't involved in the interviewing process (and it will be great if this will be people at the same level you are considering this candidate for).

This will be an opportunity for the candidate to learn more about what working at your firm is like, and to be told things, and ask questions, that might not work in the more formal interview process.

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  • This is typically what my company does, and when I was interviewed I really liked the "candid" setting and the opportunity to chat with my potential future colleagues. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 11:32
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    Personally I agree and enjoy going for lunch with the team on interviews, but keep in mind that this is strongly dependent on personality type. Some people don't enjoy and are not at their best being the stranger in a group of people who know each other well. At the least, try to accommodate this by keeping the group small and/or breaking the group up into smaller tables in the restaurant.
    – davnicwil
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 11:46
  • I worked for a company that did this too, though it was always just one-on-one. It gave the candidate a chance to relax and ask honest questions without worrying whether they were being evaluated on it. I enjoyed volunteering to be that lunch buddy, because - hey, free lunch!
    – Seth R
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 22:00
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I recommend getting one or two employees who the candidate is not directly interviewing with but are also responsible to show the candidate the general area next to the company and the lunch spots in the area then bring them to one of the places you would recommend as this is also a setting point of the company.

Encourage your employee(s) to allow the candidate to relax and use it as an opportunity to give them an idea of the company culture and what the lifestyle working for the company and in the area is like in a positive way.

The candidate will of course not let their guard down 100% but they should not feel like they are actively being interviewed, they need a little time to relax.

After, pay, come back to the office and the employee(s) can discreetly report how they felt about them. If there were any red flags etc.

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Depends on the position. But if you are interested in them and keeping them for so long then I think it is in your interest to treat them to lunch and get to know them better. Lunch can reveal a lot about someone from their manners to how they treat the wait staff. You could have a great candidate on paper but if you can’t stand eating lunch with them, would you want to work on a project with them?

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