Whilst it is common practice for recruiters to meet candidates for a coffee to discuss a job prospect, we are increasingly seeing employers replacing the first-stage interview with ‘the coffee interview’.
Often, there will be a good reason as to why the interview is being held off site; perhaps the role is not live yet, or is of a sensitive nature, or the hiring manager prefers the approach.
This approach is often favoured for mid-senior positions, and can be positioned as ‘informal’ or ‘relaxed’, however, it is important to remember that any meeting with a potential employer, regardless of the setting, should be given as much attention as a formal interview.
How to Prepare
- Get the basics right – know when, where, and who you are meeting as well as what you should wear
- Get the mobile number of your contact and agree an exact location for your meeting
- Take your CV and any relevant documents with you
- Do your research into the role and company
On the Day
- Treat it as a formal interview – even if the setting is not, as you are still being assessed as a fit for the organisation and potential role you are there to discuss
- Have questions prepared, even if you do not have a role profile or detailed description, e.g. something as simple as ‘what was it about my CV or skills/ experience that stood out to you for this opportunity?’
Whilst it may not be what you expected of a job interview, there are benefits, as well as challenges to this informal-style approach. You should be aware of all of these before attending.
- Hiring managers often open up more during coffee meetings as they feel less bound by formal structure
- Typically, feedback is shared more quickly because there is not a need to wait for formal decisions/ processes to take place
- It provides an opportunity to truly gel with the hiring manager and build rapport from the outset, potentially giving you a step up at the next stage
- You can quickly assess if the hiring manager is someone you could work with
- Initiating a relationship, without oversharing or becoming overly-familiar
- Ensuring you walk away with a more detailed understanding about the potential opportunity, not more ambiguity
- Sharing enough information through ‘conversational style’ to give the hiring manager confidence in your abilities and suitability
- If you are successful in moving to the next stage, then having to go through the formal process which can be very different and stretch out the timeline