Gone are the days of rigid question/answer interviews consisting of prepared scripts to probe only on specific skills and competencies.
We now schedule less formal and more personable interviews sometimes referred to as a ‘general chat’ or a ‘coffee catch-up’. These meetings allow potential employees far more control of what is discussed, where the conversation is steered, which of their skills, experiences, and aspirations are displayed, and the all important personality factor.
Time and time again however we hear that people do not take advantage of such opportunities and instead pass full control of proceedings over to the interviewer. This is not what these interviews are designed for. The interviewer does not want a nervous wide-eyed stare back at them, short or rehearsed answers and awkward silences. They want collaboration, involvement, interest, excitement! Failing all of that, they just want a decent conversation with a like-minded person who displays informed and thought provoking opinions.
Here are a few tips to prepare you for a successful ‘general chat’:
Prior to the interview make sure you have fully read the job description. Look through each of the desired competencies and relate them to your career in order to prove your experience in each area. Once you have completed this choose the top 5 most relevant and aim to fit each of them into your interview at some point.
Think of 5 questions beforehand based around the role, the organisation as it stands and the future. Ask these questions throughout the conversation - don’t wait for the ‘any questions’ part at the end – this part does not exist in an informal interview. Asking the questions when you choose to allows you control of the discussion and can create natural leads into the areas you want to show you have experience in.
Look up the interviewer on LinkedIn or Google them prior to the interview. Simply knowing what they look like can make you feel more at ease, and getting an understanding of their background can create further topics of discussion. Knowing where or what they studied, where they are from or what their hobbies are can also allow for conversations to move away from the role and organisation, cementing a deeper relationship and engaging them on a different level.
Try to remain positive. In a conversational based interview it can be more difficult to change the subject with a new question. If you get onto a tricky area such as why you want to leave your current employer, give a comprehensive answer then move on. Don’t get bogged down in any negative opinions or stories, the interviewer does not want to hear them and it will nearly always reflect badly on you no matter what the situation was. Remember, the interviewer knows you want to leave but wants you to display that you are doing so with integrity and dignity.
Take the interview seriously and do your research. Less formal does not mean less important, and this is still your only chance to make a good first impression.
Lastly remember that the person interviewing you does not want to waste an hour of their time in an awkward or painful situation, they want you to both leave having been engaged in an hour of worthwhile and interesting discussion. So relax and treat it as your opportunity to show them who you really are and what you’ve really got.