Informal Interviews - 3 things you should know

Informal interviews - we’ve touched on this subject before in our post titled “Tie or no Tie”. It’s such a minefield that we thought it deserved its own blog post!

So…Is there any such thing as an informal interview?

Hiring managers - we would warn you that the word ‘informal’ can easily be misinterpreted by candidates. We would recommend thinking carefully before describing your interview as an “informal” one.
As a hiring manager you might feel it puts the candidate more at ease and less under pressure. However, the word “informal “can mean different things to different people and this could end up being a disappointment and a waste of time for all parties involved and it can be easily avoided.

3 things to consider:

1. Interviews shouldn’t be “surprises”

That is unless you really are trying to see how your interviewee acts under pressure. If you choose an “informal” interview process makes sure you are clear on what you mean by this. A client of mine recently said “tell him (we will call the candidate Bob) it’s an informal interview, Bob doesn’t need to wear a tie, I won’t be wearing one, I want him to feel at ease” I’m so glad that I went on to ask “so what should else should I tell Bob to expect? “Because he went on to say that he “wants Bob to be as comfortable as possible as he would be going through his CV in some detail and this could take up to an hour and a half because we have some online tests to do whilst he is here”.  Now this extra piece of information gave a whole new meaning to the interview and Bob knew that the only thing that was informal about this interview was the fact he needn’t wear a tie and he could prepare accordingly. Everyone involved would have been embarrassed if Bob had turned up in his jeans, a shirt and a set of car keys, expecting just a “chat” purely because he had misunderstood the meaning of “informal”
So, if you have a specific expectations , please be clear with the recruiter and the candidate!

2.Decide on your objectives for your “informal” interview

As hiring manager, you may prefer an informal approach or setting and hopefully you know what you want to say, what you want to ask, and what information you want to have found out by the end of the interview. If you need to assess skills and experience make sure you have some well-prepared questions that will allow you to do this (we have some great starting points for sales interview questions here). An informal setting such as a hotel lounge or break out area can be a great place for a candidate to feel more at ease and be more open about their background and current situation. But make sure if it’s important to you that you don’t come away using only your gut feeling to decide, as this can result in you hiring someone with no evidence of their actual capabilities of doing the job and you will inevitably lose this person (either you sack them or they leave) because of this.

3. Clarify your own internal interview process

If you are inviting a candidate for a 2nd interview to meet your boss and it’s the 1st time, and they describe the interview as “informal” make sure you take the time to ask what they mean by this so you aren’t setting up the person you want to hire for a fall. There is nothing worse than having to reject your favourite potential employee as they walked in expecting a “friendly chat” and they actually got a grilling that they weren’t ready for.

Hiring Managers – be aware of the language you are using to invite candidates to interview. If you are asking them to attend an informal interview maybe give some extra guidelines on what they should expect from the process so they are well informed.

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