How to Prepare for an Informal Interview

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Informal interviews are becoming increasingly common in the hiring and recruiting process. With the proper preparation, you can approach your next informal interview with confidence and charm. This article shares some tips to help you prepare for the casual setting of informal interview while maintaining a professional image and positioning yourself as an ideal candidate.

What is an informal interview?

An informal interview is a meeting that takes place in a casual setting. Rather than scheduling a traditional interview, a manager may ask to meet you for coffee or lunch. Although this meeting may serve the same purpose as an official job interview, it will likely be presented as something less formal—like a chat. The manager may frame it as a chance to discuss a new opportunity or explore a possible job transition.

Informal interview vs. traditional interview

The main difference between an informal interview and a traditional interview is the setting. A formal interview typically takes place in an office setting, often with multiple people asking you questions and taking notes. An informal interview, on the other hand, will take place in a neutral location. For example, the manager may invite you to grab a cup of coffee or meet for lunch. 

Another difference is the framing and content. A traditional interview leaves no doubt about its purpose. An informal interview can be ambiguous because the word ‘interview’ will not be used. Instead, it might be considered a ‘conversation.’ You may not be asked a lot of direct, job-related questions, and it will be less one-sided than a normal interview. The recruiter or manager will be trying to get a feel for your personality and whether you would be a good fit for their organization. 

Why are informal interviews popular?

The casual setting of an informal interview may put you more at ease, which gives the other person a better idea of who you are. They can also be used to gauge your interest and suitability before making a job offer. An informal meeting over lunch can be easier to arrange than a formal interview that requires the presence of multiple people within the organization. It may also be preferable for companies that do not have a quiet office space where they can conduct interviews.

Informal interviews may also be used to start sifting through candidates before a position is actually available. They work especially well in situations where the organization is prepared to create a new position but does not yet have a firm job description. In this case, if the interviewer thinks you are a good fit, the position can be tailored to your skills and interests.

How to prepare for an informal interview

Here are the steps you can follow to prepare for an informal interview:

1. First, research the organization

Familiarize yourself with the organization, including its history, mission statement, products and services. Learn what you can about its current initiatives and future plans. As you research, think about the role you might play at the company and what you don’t know but would like to know. Put some thought into the broader industry, too, and how the company is positioned within it.

2. Second, review your resume

Take the time to review and update your resume. It’s a good idea to take a printed copy with you to the interview, but don’t pull it out unless the interviewer asks for it. Even if you don’t end up needing it, updating your resume will remind you of the skills and experience you can highlight during the interview.

3. Third, compile a few questions

Prepare a few questions ahead of time. In addition to helping you learn more about the organization, a well-worded question can demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and your interest in the position. Choose questions that will help you determine whether the organization is a good fit for you and that will show the interview you are a good fit for the organization.

4. Then, prepare a pitch

Be ready to give an elevator pitch. You should be able to articulate what you can offer the organization, what role you can play and why you are a good choice. Be prepared to talk about your past experience as well as your future career goals.

5. Lastly, choose professional attire

Use your clothing choices to convey your professionalism. Dress in industry-appropriate attire that shows you take the interview seriously. Make sure your hair and nails are well-groomed, your breath is fresh and your body odor is taken care of. Spit out any gum before you arrive.

What to do after an informal interview

What happens after the interview depends on how well it went and what its purpose was. If the employer is ready to move forward, you may be given a concrete next step. For instance, they may say they will contact you within a few days, or they may set up a formal interview or offer a tour of the office. At the end of the meeting, make sure you get the other person’s business card or contact information. This will allow you to follow up, thank them, reaffirm your interest and clarify your next steps if necessary.