From avoiding tangents to making a great impression, here are 12 answers to the question, “What are your best tips for a job seeker to make the most out of an informal interview?”
- Answer the Questions Asked
- Get Comfortable With Ambiguity
- Don’t Forget to Smile
- Remember, Informal Interviews Often Evaluate Team-Potential
- Send a Follow-Up Message
- Listen Actively
- Gauge How Busy Your Interviewer Is
- Lead the Conversation With Thoughtful Questions
- Be Yourself
- Do Your Research Beforehand
- Wear Something Comfortable
- Prepare for Anything
Answer the Questions Asked
Listen well to the intent of the questions and don’t go off on a tangent or try to be funny. The interviewer is trying to gauge your personality and work ethic.
This post may have affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission on purchases through the links (at no extra cost to you). This does not change our opinion but does help support the site. Thank you!
Don’t worry about impressing them with your wit.
They want to see if you can do the job. If you go off on a long-winded soliloquy about your favorite hobby, you could easily lose the interviewer’s interest. Give them the basic information they need to make their decision and then keep quiet.
Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Paraphrase Tool
Get Comfortable With Ambiguity
Informal interviews are a great way for both sides to judge a culture fit. Interviewers will look for someone who displays the qualities and values of their organization, while interviewees will look for an organization that suits theirs.
As a manager at an executive search firm, I have interviewed hundreds of candidates who seem to want to have every question answered right away or who treat the interview as a test they can pass, for which it did not provide them with a textbook.
Their rigidity limits any open conversation about their background and how it might fit with the company. We can not cover everything in initial calls or in the short and conversational time of an informal interview.
Showing comfort with an unfolding process on both sides, and an awareness of a bigger picture without needing all the details, is one of the best ways for both sides to connect. Excellent candidates will be open to this within limits, and good recruiters will know not to abuse it.
Tony Topoleski, Project Manager, ECA Partners
Don’t Forget to Smile
An informal interview can be a great opportunity to showcase your personality and build a connection with the interviewer. And while it may seem like smiling during a phone interview won’t make a difference, it can actually have a big impact.
Research has shown that smiling during a conversation can help to create positive feelings and build rapport. When you smile, your brain releases endorphins, which can make you feel happier and more relaxed. This way, you’ll be more likely to come across as confident and friendly to the interviewer.
So, the next time you have an informal interview, whether it’s in person or over the phone, don’t forget to smile! Even though the interviewer can’t see you, they can still hear the smile in your voice, and it can make a world of difference in building a connection.
Piotrek Sosnowski, Chief People and Culture Officer, HiJunior
Remember, Informal Interviews Often Evaluate Team-Potential
The organization invites applicants to headquarters to familiarize themselves with the workforce. Jobseekers shouldn’t assume this means they’ve nailed the position. Impressing management is only stage one.
When candidates are called in for a meet-and-greet, what they’re really being evaluated on is their ability to meld with the existing team.
Starting off on the wrong foot can mean losing out on the role, so take time to introduce yourself to every team member and treat them with the same respect you would if they were the hiring manager or CEO. Increase the chances of getting hired by getting the entire workforce behind you, so stay professional and polite at all times.
Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO, Surf Search
Send a Follow-Up Message
An informal interview can be a great opportunity to make a positive impression on a potential employer and learn more about the company culture and job responsibilities. One thing that people forget to do is send a follow-up after the interview.
Writing a quick thank-you email or note to show your appreciation for the opportunity to speak with the employer can go a long way.
This can help keep you at the top of your mind and show that you are interested in the position. Pro tip: Set a reminder on your calendar to check in and say hello.
Kelli Anderson, Career Coach, Resume Seed
Being an active listener is critical to making the most of an informal interview.
If they devote their undivided and total attention to the interview, they will make the conversation engaging, build respect, and make sure they miss nothing important.
Nothing builds trust and confidence in a potential hire like an effective, engaging conversation.
Alexandre Robicquet, Co-Founder and CEO, Crossing Minds
Gauge How Busy Your Interviewer Is
The job market functions like any other, based on supply and demand. You need to know whether you are in a candidate’s market or an employer’s market.
By estimating how busy your interviewer is, you can read the job market. If their interview schedule is full, this shows the market currently favors the employer.
If they have only a few other candidates lined up, this suggests that the balance has swung in your favor. Knowing your current market value helps you to prepare and position yourself. In a candidate’s market, you can confidently negotiate over salary, perks, and other important benefits.
However, in an employer’s market, you may need to focus on differentiating yourself, as competition will be fierce, and your bargaining position will be weaker. Although an interviewer is unlikely to say “we are desperate for staff” explicitly, how busy they are will serve as a useful proxy and reveal far more information than most people think.
Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership
Lead the Conversation With Thoughtful Questions
Informal interviews can be an exciting opportunity to positively stand out and gain valuable insight. Show your enthusiasm by preparing for the conversation ahead of time, and actively guiding the conversations with meaningful questions about their work and company.
You can also leave a memorable impression by sharing details of your own experiences that relate to what they do—this is a great way for you both to connect on a deeper level.
Mary Despe, Recruitment Consultant and Career Coach, MK Despe Consulting
During an informal interview, you are your authentic self who is true to your values, personality, and communication style. Of course, you also want to maintain some level of professionalism during an informal interview, but it’s also important to keep the mood light and not take it too seriously.
By being yourself, you are more likely to build trust with the other person, which helps create a positive atmosphere and impression.
This also reduces stress for both parties and can lead to you being more confident during the interview, allowing the interviewer to see who you truly are when you’re not under pressure. Overall, an informal interview is an opportunity to show an interviewer your authentic self.
Peter Reagan, Financial Market Strategist, Birch Gold Group
Do Your Research Beforehand
My best tip for a job seeker to make the most out of an informal interview is to do your research beforehand.
Spend some time researching the company and the position you are applying for so that you can confidently discuss why the role interests you and how your skills match their requirements.
Practice some potential interview questions and topics so that you can be prepared to answer questions the interviewer may have.
Finally, come prepared with questions of your own that show your interest in the company and the position. This will help you stand out from other candidates and make a good impression on the interviewer.
Leo Vaisburg, Managing Partner, Amazon Suspension Lawyer
Wear Something Comfortable
An informal interview should be a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for both the interviewer and the job seeker.
Being well-dressed can help put you in the right frame of mind, but it’s important to find something that you’re comfortable with. You want the interviewer to remember your personality and experiences, not your clothes!
Amy Lee, Medical Advisor, Nucific
Prepare for Anything
You never know where an informal interview can lead, so it’s important to be prepared, so you can keep it brief and make a great impression.
This means doing your homework on the person, the company they work for, and the potential role(s) or field you’re interested in.
Your ability to listen actively and ask smart, thoughtful questions can often be more important than knowing the answers, and this is only possible when you really understand the subject.