Appearing for an interview can be daunting. Whether you are a fresher candidate appearing for your first job interview, or a seasoned professional facing a panel of interviewers for a bigger and better position, there is something about a formal interview that can make you nervous, even if only a bit.
However, many prospective employers are also open to conducting informal interviews. And the results are far more positive than one can imagine.
These interviews allow you to share your views and ideas about your job with the hiring manager or your employer, but without the rigidity of a formal interview.
This is one of the reasons why many new-age companies opt for an informal interview at the beginning or at least conduct an initial round of screening informally.
The basic idea is to gauge the potential of a candidate before moving to the next round of formal interviews.
The setting is more casual and the ambiance more relaxed. Both the interviewer and interviewee communicate without the strict formalities of a formal interview, which brings out their true personalities and gives both the parties a better idea if they are a fit for each other.
They might be interested in a candidate but want to screen him or her for potential openings they might like to fill in the future.
Hence, if you have been asked to appear for an informal interview, here is how you can ace it.
Points to Remember While Appearing for Informal Interviews
Here are some things you need to consider while appearing for these interviews so that you get the tone and demeanor just right.
1. Understanding the Setting
Informal interviews are conducted in a casual setting. It can be in a café, over a brunch, or a cup of coffee. However, do not let the informal setting carry you away.
You might be just enjoying coffee with your prospective employer, but remember that it is still an interview, so try to avoid doing some of the things you would ordinarily do in a casual setting.
The employer will still try to ascertain whether you are a good fit for the company, and you do not want to create a wrong first impression by not understanding the gravity of the situation.
Your clothing plays a huge role as well. While it is not required to suit up for the process, do not turn up in your tees either. Business casuals or smart casuals are your best options.
2. Do a Background Research
It would be best to do thorough background research about the employer and the company for which you are applying for a job. While this is a prerequisite even for formal interviews, it is vital for informal ones.
Apart from going through the company website, go through the company’s social media handles and check the kind of vibe they have with the larger audience to get an idea about their work culture.
You will not get a chance to enter into their formal premises and gauge the mood or work ethics of the company.
3. Speak Up
One of the reasons your employer might have offered to conduct an informal interview is to see you in your element. In any formal interview, the interviewer initially asks all the questions. The interviewer mostly does not get an opportunity to ask a question unless the interviewer asks them to, mainly towards the end of the interview process.
Informal interviews are more conversational, and you should take this opportunity to put across your ideas and ask pertinent questions to your interviewer about the aims and goals of the company.
Take this opportunity to shine through and try to ascertain whether the company has the potential to fulfill what you have in mind concerning a successful career.
4. Talk About More Than Just Your Qualifications
While your resume has a detailed list of all your educational and professional qualifications, the setting of an informal interview gives you the perfect opportunity to talk about some of the other things you have managed to achieve in life and things you are passionate about.
While it is not necessarily essential to carry a full-fledged PowerPoint presentation to such interviews, you could make a pie chart or a spreadsheet and carry a tablet to elaborate on what you are talking about. It would be the perfect mix of professionalism and light-hearted moments without things getting too intense.
Talking about your knowledge of your domain, the essential skills you possess, and the role you are interested in is necessary. After all, this is an interview nonetheless. But you can go a step further and talk about the difference you want to make as you build your career.
Tips to Get Through Informal Interview
One of the good things about informal interviews is that it takes off the stress. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to help you excel in the interview.
1. Asking Questions
Since informal interviews are more conversational, you can take this opportunity to ask pertinent questions to your interviewer. Once the introductions are over and the interviewer has asked you a couple of questions, you can ask about any challenges the company faces or how the organization sees you fitting in the company.
Most importantly, you can ask about the prospective opportunities that will eventually open up in the company over the years. Show your interest in the position you are aiming for and the company’s overall progress, which will also have long-term benefits for your career.
2. What to Bring
You can bring a notepad for taking down notes or use a notepad app on your tablet. Business cards, portfolios, and copies of your resume are some things you may carry to an informal interview.
3. Picking the Tab
If the recruiter has requested the interview, they will also pick up the tab. There is no need for you to offer to pay.
Remember, you wouldn’t have been there if the company wasn’t interested in your profile. However, thank your recruiter though for the coffee or brunch.
4. Being Prepared for Offers
Even the best candidates get flustered when offered a job on the spot. Most of the time, recruiters leave with the assurance of getting back after discussing the matter with their superiors. So you may be surprised if you are offered a position on the spot. In that case, you have two options.
If you are interested in the position yourself, you can accept it directly. The paperwork will, of course, be completed later through formal channels, and a verbal acceptance is mainly required at the moment.
Companies primarily provide spot offers to candidates who have an impressive portfolio and want to lock them early.
On the other hand, you can also politely ask the recruiter to get back to them if you feel the interview did not go as planned and what the company is offering you is not aligned with your career goals.
It is alright to think about it rather than feeling pressured into giving an answer, and the recruiter will appreciate you more for it. And, if they think you are the right match, they will wait for you as well.
5. Being Careful
One of the downsides of informal interviews is that it is sometimes possible that you might just get carried away and speak too freely. Always remember that the recruiter will be watching all your words and actions.
So it would be best if you were careful never to talk negatively about your colleagues, your previous company, or your past employers.
This will only create a poor impression and will be highly unprofessional on your part. It is essential to be careful about what you share, and even if you are no longer a part of your former company or are on the verge of quitting, never divulge any company secrets.
Following Up After an Informal Interview
If you have not heard from the recruiter after three days, you can follow up and ask about the next stage. By following up, you promote your interest to the recruiter about the job.
You can do so by writing an email, mentioning that the interview was a rewarding experience and that you look forward to working for the company. Ensure the email is carefully constructed and proofread and that you have named the recipients correctly.
You may address any reservations you have at this point. In case you receive a negative reply, you should still send out a “Thank You” for allowing you to appear.
There is no need to worry before appearing for an informal interview. These interviews are conducted on a much lighter note, and it is alright to take things easy.
However, never lose sight of your goals, and be confident and professional at the same time. The interviews will give you a sneak peek into a company you have been trying to get into, or it could open up entirely new doors of opportunity for you, one that you had not even imagined. So give it your best shot, and you will surely bag the job.