When most people picture an interview, they visualise a typical corporate setting.
Outnumbered across a large table, PowerPoint presentations, office blinds, The Apprentice boardroom…, that kind of thing.
But in recent times, coffee shops haven’t just multiplied faster than many companies are hiring.
They’ve also been playing host to first-stage and/or informal interviews on an increasingly frequent basis.
1. Speed and Flexibility:
Managers have a busy schedule during office hours, but so do potential hires who are currently employed. The coffee shop is available at almost any time of day and offers a mutually suitable meeting location at short notice, saving time and showing respect for the candidate.
A face-to-face meeting, rather than a telephone call, offers more scope to gain a flavour for someone’s character. A less intimidating setting encourages honest, genuine conversation.
When a business doesn’t have a specific vacancy advertised or has a candidate that could be considered for multiple roles or a completely new position, a traditional interview just doesn’t seem quite right.
Having a chat with a potential employer in public doesn’t seem very private…, but two potential issues are avoided: the candidate being spotted (by a part-time colleague, let’s say) dressed in interview attire, marching into a rival business; the whispers of ‘interview?’ across keyboards and coffee cups when the candidate books time off work, on a weekday, at short notice.
A hustling coffee shop with noisy chatter and kids running around isn’t the best place for discussing technical detail or company information. If that needs to happen, consider a telephone interview or a formal setting.
2. Character Assessment:
Expectations need to be right. A candidate’s personality may come across over a coffee but, of course, looking calm and collected supping a macchiato is one thing, performing the actual job is another. Also, sometimes great hires aren’t great mates – so don’t be swayed too much on someone’s general likeability over an Americano, if this isn’t pertinent.
3. Selling your Business:
It’s easy to forget that an interview is a two-way street. The ‘interviewee’ won’t get to see their potential place of work and it’ll be tougher for them to gauge a company’s culture and unique values.
Candidates… Dress smart-casual, order a proper drink (not water), don’t order food, make sure your phone isn’t pinging away, and take a copy of your CV.
Managers... As above, but swap the CV for company brochures or relevant material. And, of course, a relatively personable and informal setting isn’t an open door for discriminatory/personal questions.
Furthermore, ask the right questions. Don’t limit a coffee shop interview to friendly pleasantries and fairly basic screening questions.
Try to explain and showcase your ‘why’ – why your business succeeds, why it exists, and why your employees get out of bed for it. This could be the key to maintaining a highly sought-after candidate’s interest, from coffee shop to interview.
Why? Because people not only buy into people, they buy into a sense of purpose.