What is an Informal Interview? (Key Insights and Tips)

what is an informal interview

In the world of job hunting and talent acquisition, the interview process is an essential and inevitable step for both candidates and employers. Traditional interviews, whether conducted in person or remotely, often involve a series of formal, structured questions aimed at assessing an applicant’s skills, experience, and cultural fit. However, there is another type of interview gaining popularity in recent years, known as the informal interview.

Informal interviews differ from their structured counterparts, offering a more casual, conversational atmosphere to the interaction. This approach allows both parties to get to know each other on a more personal level, resulting in a more relaxed and authentic exchange. For job applicants, the informal interview provides an opportunity to showcase their personality, adaptability, and genuine interest in the role and organization.

Employers, on the other hand, can utilize informal interviews as a way to assess candidates’ soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are integral to success in the workplace. By engaging in a more open-ended conversation, employers can gain insight into how an applicant might fit within the team and contribute to the company’s goals. As the professional landscape continues to evolve, informal interviews offer a fresh, flexible approach to connecting employers and job seekers beyond the rigidity of traditional interviews.

What Is an Informal Interview

Informal Interview Vs. Formal Interview

An informal interview is a meeting between a job candidate and a potential employer that takes place outside of a traditional office setting. Informal interviews are typically held in relaxed surroundings such as coffee shops or during lunch. They are designed to create a more comfortable atmosphere for both the interviewer and interviewee, with conversation feeling less structured and formal than in a traditional job interview.

In contrast, a formal interview is a structured and well-planned meeting, usually conducted in a professional office environment. Formal interviews follow a specific format, with predetermined questions and a set agenda to assess the candidate’s suitability for the position.

Common Informal Interview Settings

  • Coffee shops: Conducting an informal interview in a coffee shop creates a relaxed environment for both the candidate and employer to discuss the job opportunity. This setting allows for a more casual conversation, often leading to a deeper understanding of the candidate’s skills and personality.
  • Lunch meetings: Sharing a meal while conducting an informal interview can be a great way to foster a relaxed atmosphere. This setting allows both parties to break bread together, building rapport and encouraging open conversation.
  • Casual office settings: Some employers may choose to conduct informal interviews within their office but in a more casual space, such as a communal area or break room. This approach keeps the conversation professional but less rigid, allowing for a more relaxed and honest discussion.

In an informal interview, the conversation may flow more naturally, touching on topics not typically covered in formal interviews. This format can provide the employer with a better understanding of the candidate’s fit for the company culture and their potential to thrive within the team. However, it is essential for both parties to remain professional and focused on the job opportunity at hand, despite the casual setting.

Purpose of Informal Interviews

Assessing Candidate Suitability

Informal interviews are an excellent way for the employer to assess a candidate’s suitability for a position. By stepping away from a formal interview setting, employers can gather information on the candidate’s interests, work style, culture fit, and overall alignment with the organization. Candidates, in turn, can more comfortably display their genuine selves, allowing both parties to determine if the match is suitable.

Network and Relationship Building

Informal interviews present an opportunity for both candidates and employers to expand their networks and foster relationships within the industry. Networking is pivotal in today’s professional landscape, and these interviews can provide valuable connections to individuals within an organization or related companies. Additionally, informal interviews can foster relationships between candidates and employers, which can be beneficial when considering future placements or collaborations.

Providing Information and Insights

During informal interviews, candidates can gather information about the organization and industry more openly, as it is a less structured environment. They can ask questions, seek clarification, and gain insights from employers, shedding light on key aspects of the position or culture. The open exchange of information also allows employers to provide valuable industry or organizational knowledge, giving candidates a better understanding of what to expect and how they can contribute effectively.

Two men having an informal interview at lunch

Preparing for an Informal Interview

Research the Company and Role

Before attending an informal interview, it’s essential to research the company and role. Start by reviewing the company’s website, mission statement, and recent news articles to gain a better understanding of its values and culture. Then, study the job description to identify the key skills and qualifications necessary for the position. This will help you tailor your responses and showcase your relevant experience during the interview.

Prepare a List of Questions

After researching the company and role, develop a list of thoughtful questions you’d like to ask during the interview. This demonstrates your interest and helps you gather essential information about the company culture, team dynamics, and expectations for the position. A few examples may include:

  • Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
  • What are the main skills and attributes you’re looking for in a candidate?
  • How would you describe the team I would be working with?

Plan Your Attire

Although an informal interview is more relaxed than a formal interview, it’s still essential to dress appropriately for the meeting. An easy guideline to follow is to dress in business casual attire. However, if you’re unsure about the company’s dress code, it might be helpful to contact the hiring manager beforehand to inquire about any specific expectations.

Business Casual for MenBusiness Casual for Women
Collared shirtBlouse or stylish top
Dress slacks or chinosDress pants, skirt or tailored dress
Closed-toe shoesClosed-toe shoes

Review Your Resume and Portfolio

Before the interview, thoroughly review your resume and portfolio. Be prepared to discuss your education, work experience, and relevant skills in detail. Ensure you have specific examples and accomplishments to share with the interviewer. By reviewing these materials beforehand, you’ll be confident and better prepared to discuss your fit for the position during the informal interview.

Tips for Success in Informal Interviews

Show Genuine Interest and Enthusiasm

During informal interviews, it’s essential to show genuine interest in the person you’re meeting with, as well as enthusiasm for the industry and company culture. Actively listen and ask thoughtful questions to demonstrate your curiosity and commitment. Be positive and express your eagerness to learn more about the role and the organization.

Be Proactive in Setting up Informal Interviews

Taking the initiative to set up informal interviews can convey confidence and determination. Do research on potential contacts within your desired industry, and reach out to them with a brief, personalized message requesting a meeting. Providing a few potential meeting times and locations can make it easier for them to say yes.

  • Utilize networking platforms like LinkedIn to identify and connect with professionals in your field.
  • Attend industry events to meet and mingle with individuals in person.
  • Follow up with contacts after meeting them to build trust and strengthen connections.

Focusing on these tips, such as showing genuine interest, being proactive in arranging meetings, understanding the company culture, and networking within the industry, can increase your chances of success during informal interviews.

After the Informal Interview

Reflect on the Interaction

After the informal interview, it’s essential to take some time to reflect on the interaction. Evaluate how well you were able to convey your skills, qualifications, and interests. Identify any areas where you could improve and consider the information you gathered about the company and position.

Follow up with a Thank You Email

Sending a follow-up email is a vital step after an informal interview. Be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and express your interest in the position. Include a brief recap of the conversation, highlighting key points that you discussed. This can be done using bullet points for easy readability:

  • Thanked the interviewer for the opportunity to discuss the position
  • Discussed your relevant skills and experience
  • Expressed interest in learning more about the company and job offer

Leverage the Relationship for Future Opportunities

While the primary goal of an informal interview may be to secure a job offer, building a network is also important. Make sure to connect with the interviewer on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Follow their updates and engage with their content to foster a professional relationship.

Maintaining contact with the recruiter can help keep you on their radar for future opportunities within their organization. Additionally, this connection can provide valuable insights into your career path and help you grow your professional network in the industry.

Conducting the Informal Interview

Make a Good First Impression

When conducting an informal interview, it’s crucial to make a good first impression. Greet the interviewee with a warm smile and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. A firm handshake can also help convey confidence in your personality.

Maintain a Professional yet Friendly Tone

Although informal, strive to maintain a professional yet friendly tone during the exchange. The environment should be comfortable for both parties, allowing for candid conversation and the development of rapport.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

To get the most out of the interview, ask open-ended questions, focusing on the candidates’ hobbies, career goals, qualifications, and long-term objectives. This approach encourages communication and helps gain a deeper understanding of the interviewee.

Listen Actively and Engage in Conversation

Active listening is essential in an informal interview. Show interest in what the interviewee has to say by making eye contact, nodding, and asking follow-up questions. Foster a healthy conversation by avoiding interruptions and providing suitable feedback.

Virtual Informal Interviews

Virtual informal interviews have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for employers to gain insights into a candidate’s qualities and fit for the workplace. This type of interview typically takes place in a more relaxed setting, without the pressure associated with formal interviews. In this section, we will discuss the two key aspects of virtual informal interviews: choosing the right platform and adapting your communication style.

Choosing the Right Platform

When it comes to informal interviews, selecting the appropriate platform is crucial for ensuring a smooth and effective process. Some popular options include:

  • Video conferencing tools: Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet make it easy to connect with candidates through video chat, which allows for more personal interaction and observation of body language.
  • Instant messaging applications: Tools like Slack, WhatsApp, or Telegram are excellent ways to engage in informal text-based conversations, where you can gather insights into a candidate’s communication style and personality.

It is essential to consider the user-friendliness, reliability, and security of the chosen platform when making your selection.

Adapting Your Communication Style

In a virtual setting, it can be challenging to build rapport with the candidate – especially when the interaction lacks the natural flow of a face-to-face conversation. Here are some tips to adapt your communication style:

  1. Be engaging: Start the conversation with a warm greeting and maintain a friendly tone throughout.
  2. Ask open-ended questions: Encourage the candidate to share their experiences and thoughts, giving you a better understanding of their qualities.
  3. Maintain eye contact: Despite the virtual nature of the interview, try to maintain eye contact as much as possible to demonstrate attentiveness and sincerity.
  4. Be mindful of time: Even though it’s an informal interview, be respectful of the candidate’s time and stick to the agreed-upon duration.

By considering these factors when conducting virtual informal interviews, you can foster a more comfortable environment for both you and the candidate, leading to a more insightful and meaningful conversation.

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