In recent years I’ve seen an increase in my job search candidates being invited to meet with employers for a so called “informal chat”. You might also have been phoned by a recruitment agent with the same request for a “quick chat” … If so, then beware! Any interaction with a recruitment agent or potential employer is an interview and people will straight away be forming impressions of you on which to base their future hiring decisions.

First of all, it’s worth considering why employers are taking this approach nowadays? In my view it is because the word “interview” often turns many potentially very strong applicants into nervous wrecks. Employers are trying to find the right person to fill a particular role and they therefore want to find a way to put you at your ease, to find the “real you” and what you can offer the organisation. As a general rule I coach all my job search candidates to replace the word“interview”with meeting anyway, even if it is just in their heads as they usually have performed much better in meetings in the past than in interviews. Perhaps this technique could help you too? Here are some tips for informal interviews / meetings:

Research the organisation beforehand: Check their website out. Find their company page on LinkedIn and Follow them there. Try to identify if you have a 1st or 2nd connection working there whom you could get in touch with and carry out a brief informal conversation either over the phone or face to face about what the company culture is like, what the individual likes or dislikes about working there. Consider who this organisation’s competitors are and what the challenges are that face the company or the business sector at present. All of this research will make you feel more confident and ready with some consulting type questions to raise during your meeting. It demonstrates initiative and motivation to want to join this particular organisation.

Prepare achievement examples: Dig out a copy of the original advert you responded to as well as any job description that has been provided for the role. Type up a list of the essential and preferred transferable skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience that the organisation is seeking. Under each skill heading add at least 2 examples of evidence from your prior experience ideally at work but otherwise from volunteer roles or even your social life. Try to identify things that you have changed, improved or saved as these really appeal to employers! Also aim to quantify the outcomes of anything you have done. For example, if you organised a large scale event for 100 attendees you could quantify success based on the % of positive feedback scores received or the amount of new business that was generated. Alternatively, perhaps you consolidated three complex spreadsheets into just one which had significant time savings for both you and the rest of your team – in this case try to approximate how much time was saved, for instance five hours work per week. So, the tip is to be specific and evidence based in your answers even at an informal meeting and try to include some numbers where possible.

Visualise other successful meetings: When you are waiting in the reception area before the start of your interview/meeting, visualise a meeting that has gone positively in the past and reflect on your body language (open hands, strong eye contact, smile), how you sounded (interesting varied tone, pauses for reflection, variety of slowing down and speeding up for emphasis), and what you said (two way sharing of clear information, open questions asked, checking statements for understanding) that had such a constructive result. Imagine reproducing that again in your forthcoming meeting…

Make it a 2-way dialogue: Interviewees often forget to ask questions during the process of the interview because they are so nervous and wait until the end until the interviewer prompts them with “Do you have any questions for us?” In an informal interview/meeting it shows a genuine interest in the organisation you are meeting plus a level of initiative and self-confidence that the employer will respect, if you ask questions as part of the conversation of the meeting. Not a barrage of questions of course but ones which demonstrate the research you have done on the organisation and which pick up on issues you are genuinely keen to find out about. These might be about why the role has become vacant, or what a typical day in the role would be like or what the immediate short term challenges of the role are going to be. Finally remember to send a brief thank you email after the informal interview mentioning something that you learned in the meeting and once again underlining your interest in the company and the role.

If you would like further help to prepare for forthcoming meetings or interviews then do get in touch with me on sally@swcareercoaching.com or 07748 815078

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