The Informal Interview

The Coffee Catch-up

For many candidates, the thought of interviewing strikes a deep fear akin to public speaking, or jumping off a very tall building with nothing more than an elastic rope around your ankles. Although for a lot of us, it’s a necessary evil we simply must endure, there are people out there who have stayed in a job they don’t particularly enjoy, just to avoid what they deem to be a hugely daunting process. So how as a hiring manager, do you ensure you meet with the best talent out there and more importantly gauge their true value when they are likely to be extremely nervous and prone to brain farts? Simple – you remove the formality of the initial interview and treat it as nothing more than a catch-up of mutual interests.

The informal interview, or “coffee catch-up” is a type of candidate/employer meeting that is growing in popularity, as organisations seek to engage candidates to assess their suitability for a role, without the unnecessary pressure or expectation. Here at CareerJunctionLtd, a coffee catch-up is something we encourage all our clients to undertake with our candidates, as the benefits are substantial across both the candidate and client side. Because 99% of our candidates are passive (meaning they are open to opportunities, but not actively looking), the idea of jumping straight into a formal interview isn’t highly appealing. Candidates first want to understand more about the role, the company and the people that work there, before having to convince a panel why they should be hired. On the other hand, organisations want to ensure that if they are going to undertake the interview/recruitment process with a candidate, they first know that they are interested and are dealing with someone who fits into the culture of the company and has ambition that is in line with the company direction.

The coffee catch-up is a fantastic way of assessing if two minds are on the same page. By having a pressure free chat about the industry, your way of working and where things are heading, both parties are able to assess if they are paddling in the same direction, without any brand damage. Unlike traditional formal interviews where the power is in the hands of the employer, this informal meeting ensure both parties are on the same level as they assess whether or not the next step in the process is worthwhile. The informal interview is not about assessing skills, but is instead about understanding personality, direction, cultural fit and potential across both parties. Due to the relaxed conversational nature of the meeting, one thing I find when catching up with clients and candidates afterwards, is that almost every time, they are on the same page when it comes to continuing or ending the process here.

Should both parties like what they hear and agree to continue to the formal stage of the process, candidates are naturally more relaxed as not only do they understand more about the company and how they might fit in, they also know a familiar face within the interview room itself. On the other hand, should the process go no further than the coffee catch-up, candidates aren’t left bitter as they understand why this role won’t work for them, which is turn protects the brand of the organisation.

To those who might think a coffee-catch up is simply another step in what is an already in many cases an arduous recruitment process, I say you are missing the point. Don’t think of this as an interview, think of it as a meeting between industry professionals where mutual interests can be discussed, opinions learned and insights gained. If it turns out you are able to identify a rock-star candidate in the process, or a company that matches exactly what you are looking for – then great! A coffee catch-up doesn’t simply add to your recruitment process- it narrows it down to highly targeted candidates, making it far more likely to succeed.

Eamonn Dunn

920 Recruitment, Auckland