Job interviews are an effective way for employers to find out more about prospective candidates and it is highly likely you will be asked to attend an interview during your job search.
This article will help you to navigate your way through an informal interview, give you the key things to consider and show you how to prepare.
Unlike the traditional interview, an informal interview is more relaxed and is usually favoured by employers who prefer a more casual wokring atmosphere. Sometimes called an unstructured interview, this will normally be a two-way conversation rather than a set of structured interview questions.
It could take place outside of the office, over coffee or even lunch. It could happen before a more formal interview takes place to get a feel for how you may fit into the company, or it could happen at the end of the process, to help the employer decide between two equally qualified candidates.
The dress code could be less formal and the setting more relaxed. There will be more give-and-take in the conversation, and more opportunities for the interviewee to ask questions.
Informal interviews have advantages for both the interviewer and interviewee:
Sometimes, informal interviews are used when there isn’t an actual job on the table but the employer or recruiter wants to see what kind of talent is out there. Maybe the employer has a rough idea of a new role that it wants to implement, and wants to chat to prospective candidates to help settle on the exact job description.
The informal interview could also take place at the end of the interview process, and might just be a series of negotiations about a job offer.
Though there are many good reasons to choose informal interviews, it may simply fit the culture of the employer better than any other type of interview.
Remember, even if you’ve been invited to an informal interview, it is still an interview. Fight the urge to relax too much and don’t speak too freely. The interviewer is not your friend, they are someone that you potentially want to work for.
They are only interested in what kind of fit you could be for the company and what skills you would bring to the team.
Remember, at an informal interview you will be expected to contribute fully to the conversation. Take this opportunity to present yourself in the best light and lay out what you think your strengths are, and what you would bring to the company.
Try to be personable, warm and friendly. If you are nervous about making conversation, prepare lots of questions that you can ask to fill any awkward silences.
The structure of a two-way conversation will highlight any gaps in your knowledge about the company or the role. Make sure you have done your research. Find out everything you can about the company, the position and the industry in general, so that you can talk about them confidently.
Unlike a traditional interview, it is highly likely that you will be invited to order food or coffee when meeting outside the office. The interviewer will likely offer to cover the cost of any meals or snacks, but bring money with you just in case.
Consider carefully what you order. Remember, you aren’t there to have a three-course meal, just enough to be polite. Focus on the conversation and not your food.
No matter how informal your chat may seem, it’s a good idea to keep your interview under wraps from your current employer. Wait until things are more certain before letting them know.
An informal interview requires just as much preparation as any other; in fact, it may require more, as you may be out of your comfort zone and will be expected to hold your own in the conversation.
Here are some key tips to help you feel relaxed and prepared on the day:
Although the tone will be more conversational, generally, the same interview questions will be asked at an informal interview as would be asked at a formal one.
After all, the goal is still the same: the interviewer wants to find out as much as they can about you and how you might fit into the position or company.
Some of the typical questions to anticipate are:
Because the interviewer is also looking at your personality, you may anticipate some behavioural questions as well:
Because the interviewer may not have a set job in mind, you should also anticipate questions such as:
Because an informal interview is more relaxed, it offers you more opportunity to ask your own questions. Try asking questions throughout the chat to help you contribute more to the discussion.
If there is not a formal job on the table, it is to your benefit to ask all the questions you can to further clarify the role.
Try to ask as many open-ended questions as you can, rather than ones that require only a yes or no answer.
Here are a few questions to try:
Informal interviews are commonly scheduled at the end of the recruitment process, so you should be prepared for the possibility of receiving an offer of employment on the spot.
If the offer is unexpected, it is possible that you may not know how to react. Here are some tips:
In the end, it is to your benefit to take a few days to look things over. Any employer worth working for will understand this.
Ultimately, an informal interview should be prepared for in much the same way as a traditional interview. Although it will have a more relaxed feel, location and dress code, make sure you are prepared and have done all of your research.
Bring your CV and business cards, keep the dress business casual and be prepared to talk, not only about yourself but about the company you are interviewing for and the current job market.
Keep all of these ideas in mind and you should be prepared for whatever your interviewer throws at you.
You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles: