10 Tips to Prepare for Informal Interviews

Learn the benefits of informal interviews and the best practices to prepare you for your next informal interview.

Interviews can be stressful, even if they are informal. Preparing in advance and knowing what to expect is the key to remaining calm, cool, and collected during your next informal interview. In this article, we’ll cover the difference between formal and informal interviews, outline the benefits of informal interviews, and detail 10 tips and tricks that you can leverage to crush your next informal interview. 

What is an informal interview? 

An informal interview is an interview that occurs in a casual setting like over coffee or lunch. Unlike a formal interview, the conversation will be less structured and both parties will be encouraged to participate in a way that comes most natural to their regular state of being. While the ultimate goal of an informal interview is similar to a formal interview in the sense that both interviews strive to identify whether the candidate would be a good fit for the role, informal interviews allow the interviewer to gain a more in-depth understanding of the interviewee’s personality and skill set. 

In an attempt to stand out amongst competing organizations that are vying for the same talent, interviewers may also use informal interviews in an attempt to stand out or get to know candidates on a more personal level. 

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Benefits of informal interviews

1Show the candidate’s personality better

During formal interviews, it can be difficult to gain a deep understanding of the candidate’s personality. These conversations are structured and rigid and as a result, they don’t provide a lot of opportunities to get conversational and go beyond the initial interview questions. 

Informal interviews are much less structured and flow more naturally, which leads to more authentic conversations that enable both the interviewer and the interviewee to get to know each other on a deeper level. 

2Reduce stress 

Formal interviews can be extremely stressful. Unlike traditional interviews that are more formal and structured, informal interviews take place in a more relaxed setting and allow candidates to get comfortable and express themselves more freely. If you have the opportunity to choose how you interview with the company, informal interviews offer a much more relaxed atmosphere. 

3Allow the candidate to ask more questions 

Formal interviews are extremely structured and usually progress as the interviewer asks a series of predetermined questions. This framework doesn’t provide the candidate with the opportunity to participate freely. Unlike formal interviews, informal interviews are conversational, and the candidate can participate in the conversation and ask questions throughout the entire interview instead of waiting until the end of the conversation. 

4Grow the candidate’s network

Whether you move forward with the role at hand or not, informal interviews offer an excellent opportunity to broaden your professional network. Communicating with the interviewer whether you ultimately choose to proceed with the role or not will help you expand your network and open the door to new opportunities that you may not have otherwise heard of. Connecting with the interviewer and letting them know that you may be interested in future opportunities is a great way to stay in touch. 

10 tips to prepare for an informal interview 

1Wear appropriate clothing

Dressing for the part is imperative. While an informal interview may not lend itself to a suit and tie, it’s still important to look professional. Business casual attire will suffice; however, it’s important to take the setting of your informal interview into consideration when determining what to wear. If you’re meeting at a coffee shop, business casual attire is great. If you’re meeting at an upscale restaurant, you may want to wear something a bit more professional. 

2Arrive early so you can get settled before the interviewer gets there

There’s nothing worse than feeling nervous or overwhelmed before an interview. Arriving at your casual interview location early will ensure you have ample time to get settled and prepared. Not only will you be able to prepare before the interviewer arrives, but arriving early will also demonstrate professionalism and dedication to the job. 

3Bring something to take notes

Taking notes will not only ensure you have any and all information pertaining to the job that you may need to reference later, but it will also demonstrate that you’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation. 

Gone are the days of losing your notebook or keeping track of important information in unorganized documents. Fellow is the perfect tool for note taking. You can take notes in a public meeting agenda so both you and the interviewer can reference them later, or you can leverage the private stream feature to take private notes. 

4Have a clear understanding of the company and role

Having a clear understanding of the organization and the role is extremely important. Going into the conversation with background knowledge will help the conversation flow while demonstrating you’re a competent candidate. Consider reading public reviews with customer feedback to better understand the company and their product.

5Be an active listener

Active listening is the act of providing your undivided attention to another person while they communicate information. In this scenario, active listening would be providing your undivided attention to the interviewer. Active listening is essential for effective communications and engaging conversations. Actively listening to the interviewer will aid in building trust and demonstrate respect. 

6Know what to expect

Knowing what to expect will help alleviate any feelings of uneasiness. Note that, typically, if the interviewer has initiated the meeting, they will pay the bill. Knowing what to expect and being prepared for any scenario is key. 

7Bring copies of any relevant material

Bringing copies of any necessary documents will ensure you’re prepared if the interviewer happens to ask for them. Whether they ask for a paper copy of your resume or not, providing one demonstrates you’re interested and prepared. If you forget to bring your resume or portfolio to the informal interview, simply attach them when you send your follow-up email. 

8Express gratitude

Whether you choose to move forward in the interview process or not, it’s extremely important to express gratitude and thanks. This can be done with a simple thank you at the end of your chat or a follow-up email after the fact. What’s most important is that you take the time to thank the interviewer for their interest and the time they’ve spent getting to know you. 

9Have questions ready 

Showing up to the informal interview with questions will demonstrate your eagerness and enthusiasm. Coming up with a list of impactful questions and practicing them before your informal interview will ensure you don’t speak too freely, which can often be a negative effect of informal interviews. 

Practice makes perfect and it’s also important to practice what you’ll say if the interviewer catches you off guard with an offer. While you may be excited, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the offer. Preparing a response in advance will mean you’re prepared and ready to politely let the interviewer know that you will need a few days to review the offer. It’s important to take your time to reflect on the offer to avoid making any rash decisions. 

10Prepare answers for frequently asked interview questions 

While this may be an informal interview, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be asked traditional interview questions. Preparing answers to frequently asked interview questions will ensure you exude professionalism and grace while answering. Failing to prepare may lead to unauthentic or unprofessional responses that don’t answer the interviewer’s questions. 

Are you ready to crush your next informal interview? 

Congratulations! You’ve officially unlocked all the information you need to knock your next informal interview out of the park. While they may seem stressful, it’s important to remember that informal interviews are informal for a reason. The interviewer wants you to be as comfortable as possible while providing you both with the opportunity to learn more about each other and future opportunities. If you prepare in advance and know what to expect going into the interview, you’ll have nothing to fear.

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About the author

Hannah Ross

Hannah is an experienced content creator and digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working with startups, small business owners, and large organizations. Presently, Hannah serves as the Founder at Flamingo Social where she strives to create impactful organic content marketing strategies that help founders tell inspiring stories.

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