Just a head of iceberg lettuce and a fork, please
March 22, 2010 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I am in the midst of applications for professional positions in my field. Often the people doing the hiring will fly interview candidates out to their location for a day-long interview process, which includes meals with people on the search committee. How can I gracefully request that they accommodate my vegan diet?

I've considered not mentioning it and just making do, but that could cause two problems:

1. We end up at the Beef & Cheese Palace and there's nothing I can eat--the committee feels bad & I look rude.
2. Sometimes all I can eat at a restaurant is a side salad and some fries. This would be a...weird choice for a job interview, no?

I don't want to ruffle any feathers or seem demanding, so how should I make this request without hurting my chances?
posted by Fui Non Sum to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ask to do something other than have a meal. Say your dietary requirements preclude it. For all they know there's some medical or religious reason that you can't have food.

Those who press you are not people for whom you want to work.

posted by dfriedman at 1:32 PM on March 22, 2010

Being vegan is no big deal, particularly in the academic world or in certain parts of the country (read: hippie enclaves).

First off, you shouldn't worry about this unless they explicitly say to you, "There will be lunch involved."

I should also hope that they would ask you before you would have to tell them; that's what we try to do when we're doing interviews or have visiting folks.

But if not, you should feel free to say, when a meal is mentioned (or at least a day-long interview process during which there should be a time for a meal with the committee or not), that you are vegan and would like to know of some options. It shouldn't be a big deal, but if it is... well, there you go; your process has just gotten simpler.
posted by Madamina at 1:39 PM on March 22, 2010

I'd expect them to ask about dietary restrictions when they make all the other arrangements. People needing certain types of food for various reasons is pretty common and in my experience day long things like they generally ask.

But even if they don't I presume there will be some correspondence while they make the arrangements for you to come down (even if it's just them sending you flight details and you replying that you got them) so that's when you bring it up. Not as a big deal, just throw in a sentance with the rest. Like: I can fly from blah blah airport, I'll arrive at blah blah time, my dietary restrictions are that I need a vegan diet, I'm looking forward to meeting with you, blah blah, etc. Except, you know, with real details. You're there all day, that's long enough that you need to eat so letting them know what you can or can't eat is entirely reasonable. There is a chance they'll ignore it but that shows you their priorities anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never second-guessed the dietary choices of anyone I've interviewed. I think it might be reasonable to say something like, "I apologize for the inconvenience, but I *DO* have dietary restrictions, so I was hoping it might be possible to choose restaurants that are vegetarian friendly. I'm actually a vegan, but I can usually find something that will work at vegetarian-friendly restaurants."

Plan on bringing a granola bar (or something equivalent) in case that doesn't work out, but most places are understanding that everyone has their own dietary needs. If they're flying you out for an interview, they're unlikely to be put off by something reasonably common.

Do note that this may vary regionally; in my limited experience, Texans tend to be weirded out by people who don't eat meat more than, say, Californians, but if the culture of this potential workplace hinges so strongly on food, you'll be uncomfortable there, anyhow.
posted by JMOZ at 1:43 PM on March 22, 2010

I wouldn't ask to do something other than a meal. In my field job interviews go over 2 days and all the meals are part of the interview so that as many people as possible can meet the candidates and so the candidates can get a real sense of the department that they can use when choosing between job offers.

That said, most places doing hiring would accommodate any dietery requirements, including vegetarianism, veganism, religious, or medical issues. If someone didn't ask about dietary requirements, it was likely an oversight. You should mention it ASAP (before they do scheduling and start telling people where to meet you) to whoever your contact is for making arrangements. Most of the people you dine with won't even know that you're eating where you are because you're a vegan. They're just showing up for free lunch wherever they were told to show up for free lunch.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2010

Best answer: I'm in academia, so it might be different, but before every job trip like this I've taken, I've received a detailed itinerary a few days in advance which included information about where any meals would take place. If you get something like that, you can do a little research regarding your options and perhaps request a change. As the interview gets closer, it's probably not out of line to request an itinerary if one hasn't been provided.

I think you can probably wait until you hear whether a meal is involved before you need to make your concerns known. I can't imagine they wouldn't accommodate any concerns you had-- generally, an admin person who's not on the search committee has made these arrangements, so you probably wouldn't even have to engage with a member of the committee if you needed a change.

Additionally, when I've been on search committees, we've stuck to places that have a variety of dietary options, but options might be limited due to where the interview takes place.

FWIW, I wouldn't think twice if someone we invited ordered fries and a salad during the interview, all it would really signal is that we needed to pick another restaurant that had more options next time.
posted by activitystory at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2010

I haven't been vegan for a long time, but as a (fish only) vegetarian I find I can always find something to eat. If I were you I'd bring some high protein snacks with you for backup, and just order a salad if it comes down to that.
posted by serazin at 1:53 PM on March 22, 2010

Seconding what JMOZ said about Texas. Probably wouldn't be a big deal in Austin, but in the rest of the state, you might run into situations where they just plan on taking you to a BBQ place without even asking you. It tends not to occur to them that there are really people who don't eat meat. I've met 55 year olds living in Houston (the 4th largest city in the US) who tell me I'm the first vegetarian they've ever met.

On the other hand, no one here has given me a hard time about it in years. They're coming along...
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:11 PM on March 22, 2010

Best answer: Meals are a HUGE part of interviewing and business. You cannot avoid them without hurting yourself in the long run. Do NOT ask for non-meal interviews. Your comportment in a business meal setting is really important, and skipping out on the meal is like skipping out on part of your interview.

Try to take care of this in advance and as quietly as possible, principally with the administrative assistants or restaurant/catering staff. If someone fail somewhere along the line, also try to take care of it quietly (and bring your granola bar), but do not "just make do." People will question you and wonder what is wrong with you, no matter how little your meal deviates from theirs. If you get served BBQ Cheese and don't eat it, people will also bother you. But you probably know this already.

Texas... They're coming along...

Some of them. I got singled out and scoffed at for ordering the vegetable sides at a BBQ place this year, instead of ordering meat sides with the meat entree. WTF.
posted by whatzit at 2:41 PM on March 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, everyone! You have all reassured me that I won't get a black mark on my resume for being vegan :)
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2010

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