Job interviews take many forms and occur in various settings. One that doesn’t get talked about much is the coffee shop interview. Sometimes literally occurring in a coffee shop, the title refers to those interviews that occur in coffee shops, diners and similar locations. The atmosphere in these places offers its own set of challenges.
I’ve experienced this type of interview two times over the years. Here are some thoughts and observations that came out of those meetings.
1. Arrive early. That’s a given for any interview. But it’s especially important for a coffee shop interview. Familiarize yourself with the layout, and grab a good table if you can. Visit the restroom so you’re comfortable when the interview begins. When I arrived for one interview, the coffee shop was nearly full. I grabbed a small table but eyed a larger one nearby. That was occupied by two couples. Thankfully, one couple left prior to the start of my interview. I quickly snared a spot at the larger table. It made a world of difference.
2. Beware of the casual atmosphere. That lends itself to a more casual flow to the job interview. While that’s nice on one hand, you have to be careful. Don’t let the casual atmosphere prevent you from giving your best performance. Act as if you are in the manager’s office (or some other business setting). Maintain good eye contact and posture, speak articulately, and ask all those good, in-depth questions you prepared. Minimize the side chatter so you stay on message–and keep the interview on schedule.
3. Prepare for distractions. Coffee shops can be busy places, even in mid-afternoon, which was the case for me one time. The place was crowded with moderate background noise. People will be walking past and chatting next to you. You have to tone out all that and focus on the interviewer. If you feel the setting is not conducive, mention it to the interviewer. Perhaps there’s a better arrangement.
4. Take the initiative. Another suggestion for interviewing in general. But in settings like a coffee shop, it can be really important. Take your mind off the distractions and onto your presentation (interview). I like to start off by asking questions, and try to keep the flow going. In one case, it was as if I was doing the interviewing. But that was OK; it was a very fruitful discussion. The casual atmosphere worked in my favor. I covered all the questions I wanted to, and provided additional information that I knew the interviewer would want to hear.
Preparation was key. I always spend several hours preparing questions and reviewing the material I will talk about. That should be true for every interview. Never approach an interview intending to wing it. (I tried that once, and failed miserably.)
5. Take the interview seriously. Just because you’re in a coffee shop or diner, don’t pretend that this interview doesn’t count. It does. As were mine, yours will probably be a screening interview. Give that interview the importance it deserves. Slack off here, and you could blow your chance for a follow-up interview.
6. Send those thank-you messages. Another given. Sadly, too many candidates skip (or forget) this step. An email is fine, but I recommend a hand-written note as well. The personal touch really stands out. In either case, the thank-you message allows you to reiterate the key points you offered during the interview, as well as one or two others you forgot. Take this opportunity to remind the interviewer why you’re a great candidate and deserve that next step.
As I stated, mine were screening interviews. The formal meetings came later. But that was made possible because I took the steps outlined above. If you’re ever invited to a coffee shop (or other casual venue), agree to it. But prepare well and brace yourself. While challenging in some ways, you may find yourself opening up in ways you otherwise might not. That can work in your favor. Stay focused on the task at hand, and bring out your best game. Good luck.
Have you experienced a job interview in a casual venue? Any insight to share? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you found value in this post, please share it so others may benefit from what you and I have written. You may use any of the following buttons. To contact me, send an email.
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