At an upscale restaurant, an executive recruiter was interviewing a woman for a C-suite position. It was going smoothly, until a wait person set a water glass down on the interviewee's left.
The interviewee noticed the error. The glass should be placed on the right.
Have you heard those stories about employers who have the wait staff purposely make errors to see how the interview candidates react? This was not one of those occasions.
The candidate lifted the glass over her head, put it noisily down on her right and loudly chided the wait person, "It goes on the right!" And for extra emphasis, "I guess they are hiring anyone as waitresses these days!"
In telling me the story, the executive recruiter said, "I've never been so appalled and embarrassed in my life."
Why do employers have interview meals? Because sometimes, it's like cracking open a can of crazy.
Another employer interviewed a man who, when he got the wrong order, exploded like an egg in a microwave. "How hard is it to get a (expletive) order right?!" he screamed at the wait person. This wasn't a test either.
In interview meals, most interviewers are not trying to trick you.
Here is what they are after:
Reasonable table manners: someone who knows which fork to use and doesn't have disgusting habits. Or simply, someone to represent their organization well.
Social skills: someone who can carry on a conversation.
Economy: someone who doesn't order the most expensive meal, who will behave responsibly with an expense account.
Moderation: someone who won't get stinky drunk or even slightly tipsy and be a liability to the organization.
Respect: someone who treats wait staff respectfully, along with clients, co-workers and reports.
Relax, be yourself, take your time with questions and enjoy the meal.