Coffee Chat

What is a Coffee Interview & How to Prepare in 2024

What is a Coffee Interview & How to Prepare in 2024

What is a Coffee Interview

A coffee interview is an informal meeting between a job candidate and an employer representative, typically over coffee, to get to know each other better in a more relaxed setting outside of the office. The low-pressure environment allows for more open and casual conversation to determine fit for a potential job opportunity.

Unlike a traditional interview that focuses on skills and qualifications, a coffee chat is more about personality, interests, goals, and seeing if you vibe on a personal level. It's a chance for both you and the hiring managers to ask questions and build rapport in a comfortable setting like a coffee shop.

Some key things to expect:

  • It's less structured without a set list of questions. The discussion flows naturally.

  • No need to dress formally. The vibe is casual.

  • Topics may range from your background, interests, career aspirations to more general conversations about sports, news, hobbies etc.

  • It's equally important for you to interview them and determine if the role and company culture seems like a good fit.

  • Don't worry about "selling yourself". Just focus on having a genuine conversation and exchanging information.

While more informal than a traditional interview, a coffee chat is still part of the evaluation process and your engagement, professionalism and interpersonal skills are being assessed for cultural add. The networking opportunity alone though can make it worthwhile, even if the job isn't the right fit.

How to Prepare for a Coffee Interview

a drawing of two men sitting at a table in a cafe

Preparing for a coffee interview takes some extra effort to make the right impression in a casual setting. With the proper game plan, you can put your best foot forward.

First, research the company and role thoroughly so you can ask informed questions and discuss how you’re a strong match. Review the job description and company website, plus look for recent news articles.

Next, plan answers to common interview questions. Practice responding concisely while highlighting key qualifications. Prepare some insightful questions to ask about their business goals and culture.

Regarding attire, business casual is best. Opt for neat slacks or a skirt with a pressed blouse or collared shirt. Check the forecast in case a blazer or light sweater is needed. Avoid overly casual looks.

Of course, arrive 5-10 minutes early to get settled. When ordering, stray from plain coffee - try a cappuccino or seasonal latte to demonstrate sophistication.

During the interview, make eye contact and ask engaging questions while avoiding distractions from your phone. Use good posture and nod periodically to show interest.

Finally, send a prompt thank you note recapping your excitement. Reiterate how your background fits the role.

With preparation like researching the company, practicing responses, choosing the right outfit, and projecting professionalism, a coffee interview is a great way to make an awesome first impression, one perfect latte at a time.

14 Tips for the perfect coffee interview

Do your research

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

Thoroughly researching the company, position, and person you're meeting with beforehand is crucial so you can engage intelligently in conversation. Understand their background, role, goals, skills, etc. Check their LinkedIn profile and company website to learn as much as possible. This shows you've taken initiative and are truly interested in the opportunity. Having context will help you ask informed questions and determine fit.

Prepare answers to common interview questions

a man and a woman are sitting at a table drinking coffee

It's wise to anticipate likely questions and practice responses ahead of time. Consider the skills and qualifications listed in the job description and be ready to explain in detail how your background matches these. Know your resume well and be prepared to walk through it. Expect queries about your interests, career goals, reasons for applying, etc. Having concise yet comprehensive answers ready will help you make a stellar impression.

Dress Code: Go business casual

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

While a coffee chat is more casual than formal interviews, it's still important to dress professionally. Business casual attire like dress pants or skirt, button-down or nice blouse, blazer, closed-toe shoes creates a polished first impression. You want to look put-together without being too formal. Avoid overly casual clothes like jeans, shorts, sneakers, etc. Your appearance is an important statement.

Be on time (or early)

a man and a woman are sitting at a table in a restaurant

Plan to arrive at the meeting location 10-15 minutes early. This provides time to get settled, use the restroom, grab your drink order, and relax before the meeting time. Nothing creates a bad first impression like rushing in late, frazzled and stressed. Being early demonstrates punctuality and respect for their time. It sets the tone. Avoid in any way showing up last minute.

Treat staff with respect

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

It's important to be polite with all staff you interact with like servers, baristas, receptionists, etc. Be patient, use please and thank you, smile, and remember names if possible. Their input could influence hiring decisions. You want to leave a positive impression on everyone.

Bring your résumé

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Bring several freshly printed copies of your updated resume and reference list in a folder or portfolio. While it's unlikely they'll do a full interview, they may be interested in keeping or passing along your resume. Having copies on hand shows you're prepared. You can briefly walk through your background and qualifications.

Be mindful of what you order

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

Carefully consider what drink and snack you order. Avoid anything messy that could spill. Coffee or tea is classic. Order something easy to eat so you don't have to worry about it and can focus on conversation. Pass on alcohol which could potentially lead to loose lips.

Stay focused

a man and a woman are sitting at a table drinking coffee

Listen attentively to the conversation without distraction. Don't glance at your phone, people watch, or let your mind drift. Maintain eye contact and nod to show engagement. Take discreet notes on key points but don't be obvious. Staying focused shows your interest.

Ask your own questions

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

Come armed with thoughtful questions that demonstrate your interest, knowledge, and curiosity about the role, company, industry, etc. What do they enjoy about working there? What skills lead to success? Where is future growth happening? Their answers provide insider intel.

Mind your body language

a group of people are sitting at a table in a cafe

Use confident, open body language throughout your meeting - make steady eye contact, sit up straight, lean in slightly to show engagement, smile and nod appropriately, etc. Avoid nervous gestures like fidgeting or closed off poses like crossing your arms. Project confidence.

Don’t neglect your table manners

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

Practice proper etiquette like keeping elbows off the table, chewing with your mouth closed, using napkins and utensils properly, and saying "please" and "thank you" to staff. Don't talk with food in your mouth. Minding your manners prevents awkward moments.

Ask about next steps

a group of people are sitting around a table with a laptop

Before wrapping up, ask about the expected timeline for hiring decisions and potential next steps like additional formal or informal interviews. This shows eagerness and helps you plan. Thank them for insights and reiterate your interest in opportunities.

Plan your exit

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

Conclude the meeting politely by thanking them again for their time and insights. Shake hands if culturally appropriate. Ask for a business card before departing so you have their contact information for following up. Leave promptly to avoid overstaying your welcome once the discussion concludes.

Follow up

an illustration of two men sitting at a table with a laptop

Email the person within 24 hours to thank them again for the informative meeting. Briefly reiterate your interest in the role and company. Add them on LinkedIn to stay connected. Follow up shows you're eager, appreciative and know how to do the little things right.

What to say in a coffee interview

Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

The key to a successful coffee interview is knowing what to discuss to make a strong impression. With the informal setting, it can be hard to know where to start.

First, after introductions, ask smart questions about the company, role, and interviewer's background. This shows genuine interest. Discuss your qualifications next, highlighting achievements that match the job description. Provide concise examples that position you as an ideal candidate.

When the interviewer asks about you, have thoughtful answers prepared for common questions like "Why are you interested in this role?" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Use this as a chance to connect your background to their needs.

Most importantly, avoid rambling or sharing irrelevant details from your personal life. Keep the focus on demonstrating you have the skills, experience, and professionalism to excel in the job.

Throughout the chat, exude confidence and enthusiasm. Express appreciation for their time and say how excited you are about the potential opportunity. At the end, summarize why you are a great fit. Finally, ask thoughtful questions about next steps.

With the right responses that highlight your qualifications succinctly, show interest in the company, and project professionalism, a coffee interview can lead to big things. Prepare answers that check these boxes, and you’ll impress the interviewer while enjoying your latté.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Coffee Interview

a man and a woman are sitting at a table drinking coffee

A coffee interview is more casual than traditional job interviews, but you still need to put your best foot forward. The key is to avoid common blunders that can ruin your chances.

First, don't be late! Arrive 5-10 minutes early to get yourself settled. Also, don't just order a basic coffee. Opt for a cappuccino or latte to show your sophistication.

Once the interview starts, don't just talk about yourself the whole time. Make sure to ask smart questions that show your interest in the company and role. Avoid controversial topics like politics, religion, or past drama at work.

You'll also want to watch your body language. Sit up straight, make eye contact, nod and smile to show you're engaged. Don't slouch, fidget or look at your phone.

Speaking of phones, turn yours off! Having it ring or buzz is highly disruptive.

Finally, dress professionally. A full suit isn't required, but don't show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Business casual is best - think slacks or a nice skirt with a button-down shirt or blouse.

Following these tips will help you make a stellar first impression at a coffee chat interview. Show up on time, dressed to impress, with an engaged attitude. Ask thoughtful questions, highlight your qualifications, and avoid distractions or inappropriate topics. Do this, and you'll be one sip closer to landing that dream job!


Simple & cost effective way to increase employee engagement

A coffee interview provides a valuable opportunity to make an impression and learn more about a role in a comfortable setting. With the right preparation and professional approach, you can ace this more casual meeting. Do your research, dress to impress, ask thoughtful questions, and follow up promptly. Avoid mistakes like being late, distracted, or too casual. If you put your best foot forward, a (virtual) coffee chat can lead to exciting career doors opening up. With the tips outlined above, you'll be ready to nail your next coffee interview and land your dream job in 2024.