You are probably familiar with the formal interview process. Even if you have never gone on an interview, you more or less know the dynamics of the interview process through popular culture. If you are really prepared for a formal interview, you may have even rehearsed your answers to some of the most common interview questions.

A little known fact is that most interviews are informal and don’t stick to a rigid outline. Especially for smaller businesses, you need to be prepared to answer the spontaneous and unrehearsed, “Informal Interview Questions”. So I’m here to help!

There is a trend growing during the hiring process to follow a less formal approach. This is most apparent during the very beginning of any hiring process. For example, a friend, former co-worker, recruiter, or other networking contact might invite you for an informal lunch to see if you would be a good fit. These types of meetings are common place when using the hidden job market because the potential employer has yet to begin any formal interviewing or posting of job ads.

By vetting you out informally, they gain all of the benefits of assessing you as a candidate without the hassle and protocol a formal interview would require. Additionally, during an informal interview you are more likely to be relaxed and show your true colors, something that is often under cover during a formal interview.

Also, recruiters are always interested in meeting quality individuals and may give no warning before firing off some questions. If you find yourself in one of these informal interview situations, it is important to convey that you know now to handle yourself. Be prepared to make the best impression possible with your responses.

Below are a few key tips to keep in mind if you find yourself in an informal interview:

Don't get too excited too soon!

Don’t get too excited too soon!

#1. Never be too eager

An informal interview can be a lot like a first date. Actually, it is exactly like a first date. The potential employer is trying to see if you would be a good fit in their company without sounding like they are drilling you. During the meeting, you might have an urge to express just how into your date, aka the potential job, you really are…but hold off on showing too much eagerness. Make it known that you are interested in the job, but don’t go overboard. Believe it or not it can often hurt you in the long run. If you are over eager, the interviewer may wonder why you don’t have better opportunities and wonder if you have an issue with your job performance. Also, your potential employer may sense they can lowball you on pay and benefits since you are not as valuable. You ARE valuable, so come from a position of worthiness.

#2. Be Personable… They need to like you!!!

When you find yourself in an informal interview, one of the biggest determining factors will be if the person LIKES you. Yep that’s it. If it feels like high school again that’s because nothing has changed. If your interviewer does not walk away thinking, “I like him/her I would enjoy working with him/her,” your chances dip considerably. It doesn’t matter if you have a 4.0 GPA, went to Harvard, and have the perfect amount of experience.

There are three important things you can do to leave the interviewer with a good impression. First, be talkative. Prepare some things to talk about before hand and keep them in mind. Make sure the conversation flows and always has available topics. Second, having a smile on your face works wonders. Third, ask a few pertinent questions about the company and about your interviewer to show interest in them. You could ask, “What do you like about the company?” to show interest in the interviewer. Find things you have in common, which is something that is proven to establish a bond quickly. For example, you can ask them how they got their start at the company and how they have progressed in their career and see if you are in an earlier stage where they were at.


#3. Do Your Research

Google’s business objective is “aggregating all of the world’s information” Use it! If you have the opportunity to do research before you have a potential informal interview, take advantage of that time to do some extra research. First, start with researching what is going on at the company. Check out the companies LinkedIn page and website, as well as relevant news or mentions on other websites. Second, you should do as much research on the individual interviewer and what they role is, both professionally and even personally if you can. The more you know, the better position you will be in. This will give you more in common, more conversation topics, and create a stronger bond.

– The JobUnlocker Team