How to Succeed in an Informal Interview (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 November 2022 | Published 15 November 2021

Updated 8 November 2022

Published 15 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An informal interview lets you show your personality to an interviewer. Showcasing your personality shows an interviewer how you would fit into a business' corporate culture. While informal, or casual, interviews are more relaxed than traditional interviews, thorough preparation can still increase your chances of securing the job. In this article, we explain what informal interviews are and show you how to prepare, present yourself and follow up to increase your chance of success.

What is an informal interview?

An informal interview is a job interview that takes place in a casual setting typically outside of an office, such as a café or pub. Taking an interview outside a traditional corporate environment helps put the interviewer and job applicant at ease so they can get to know each other better. Casual interviews have a more relaxed structure than traditional interviews. Companies often use casual interviews to assess job candidates' soft skills and suitability for the corporate culture. A casual interview often occurs before a formal interview.

Related: What's an Informational Interview? (Definition and Benefits)

How to succeed in a casual interview

As with any job interview, good preparation can help you succeed in a casual interview. Being prepared can help you feel calm and confidently answer relaxed interview questions. Follow these steps to prepare for your casual interview:

1. Research the company, position and potential questions

Review the job posting to remind you of the job's requirements. Check the company's website and social media pages to learn more about the business and its corporate culture. Take note of any aspects that really interest you, such as an onsite gym, workplace lunches and social clubs. Speaking about these job perks shows you've done your research and demonstrates your interests.

Research questions the interviewer may ask you. Interviewers conducting casual interviews often ask standard questions, such as ‘Tell me about yourself?' and ‘Why are you interested in this position?' Your online research may also teach you about other relaxed interview questions the company typically asks its job candidates. Plan the way you would answer these casual interview questions. Preparing a rough outline of your answers, rather than a prescriptive script, helps you answer confidently and naturally.

Related: The Complete Guide to Researching a Company

2. Collate business documents

Bringing a copy of your business documents to your casual interview makes sure you have them on hand if the interviewer wants to see them. While the interviewer has probably viewed your resume and cover letter, they may want to see them again to refresh their memory about your application. If you are applying for architecture, graphic design or modelling jobs, it's also a good idea to bring your portfolio. The interviewer may want to look through this document and discuss examples of your work. Wait until you're asked for these documents rather than presenting them during the interview.

3. Prepare a smart outfit

Plan a smart outfit that shows your professionalism. While your interview is informal, the most appropriate dress is smart casual or formal, depending on the position you're interviewing for. As a general rule, what to wear to a relaxed interview is similar to what to wear to a formal interview. This may be a suit for a job at a law or accounting firm. It may be smart casual for a job in advertising or design. It's better to look overdressed than underdressed. Wearing clothes appropriate for the vacant position helps the interviewer picture you in the role.

Get your outfit dry-cleaned or washed and ironed as soon as the company schedules your casual interview. If your outfit needs dry-cleaning, make sure the dry-cleaning company can return it before your interview. Polish your shoes. Dress just before you leave the house to ensure your outfit is wrinkle-free and free from food and toothpaste stains.

Related: Business Casual vs. Smart Casual: What's the Difference?

4. Plan your transport

Research the location you're meeting the interviewer and how to get there, including where you might park. Plan your route if you're driving or check the public transport schedule. Check the estimated travel time. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your casual job interview starts in case traffic or track work slows your journey. You can use the extra time to review your notes.

Tips for impressing the interviewer

Impressing the interviewer can help you secure a follow-up interview or the vacant position. Here are some tips that can help you impress the interviewer during an informal interview:

Be friendly and professional

Professionalism is always important during any interview process. Remember, the interviewer is a potential boss or colleague. While catching up for coffee might be something you would do with a friend, having coffee during a casual interview is still a business meeting. Be friendly while maintaining your professionalism at all times. For example, speak positively about your former employer and colleagues, even if the interviewer seeks your honest opinion.

Follow your interviewer's lead

Let your interviewer set the tone for your interview. Some interviewers conduct very casual interviews and happily make small talk. Others prefer formal conventions and only ask job-related questions. If the interviewer brings up topics unrelated to the position, such as your favourite football team or social life, talk about these topics as long as it seems natural. If the interviewer is more businesslike, mirror their behaviour.

Employ active listening

A casual interview gives an interviewer the opportunity to get to know you, but it also gives you an opportunity to learn more about the company. Listen carefully to what the interviewer tells you about the role and the business. Use active listening techniques to ensure you understand what the interviewer says. Ask questions to clarify information and learn more. The information you learn during a relaxed interview could help you answer questions during the formal interview that is hopefully to come.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Ask what happens next

As your interview draws to a close, ask your interviewer about the next steps of the recruitment process. There may be a formal interview next, an aptitude or technical test or the company may have enough information to make their final decision. The interviewer should also tell you when you might expect to hear if you have progressed in the process. This information can help you decide when it's appropriate to follow up with the interviewer.

Offer to pay

Usually, the interviewer pays for any drinks or food consumed during a casual interview. Offering to pay for these expenses shows you are a responsible and generous person. If the interviewer still insists on paying for the bill, graciously accept their offer with thanks and a smile.

Consider any job offer

If you impress the interviewer, they may offer you the job on the spot. It can be tempting to accept the offer, especially if you are very excited about the role. It is a better idea to consider your decision carefully. Thank the interviewer for the offer and ask them whether you can have a day or two to consider it. This gives you time to think objectively about your decision and whether the job is suitable for you. Interviewers usually appreciate that deciding to take a job is an important decision made after weighing up the pros and cons.

Related: How to Write an Acceptance Email for a Job Offer

How to follow up after a casual interview

After your relaxed interview, following up with the company can confirm your interest in the position and remind the interviewer of your interview. Your enthusiasm can encourage the company to recall you for another interview or offer you the position. Here are the steps for following up after a casual interview:

1. Send a thank you email to the interviewer

Within 24 hours of the interview, send a brief email thanking the interviewer for their time and hospitality. Say that you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to speaking to them more about the position. Sending this email lets the interviewer know you are still interested in the role. It also leaves the interviewer with a positive impression that may persuade them to hire you.

2. Follow-up once the recruitment process enters the next phase

As you asked the interviewer about the recruitment schedule, you know when it's appropriate to follow up about the position. For example, suppose the interviewer said the company would ask successful applicants to complete a technical test within a week. In that case, you can follow up if you are still waiting for further instructions seven days after your interview.

Email is usually the best way to follow up after a casual interview. If you built a good rapport with the interviewer, you could also follow up with a phone call. Reaffirm your interest in the position and ask whether the company has made any decisions about the role. If the company has decided to employ another candidate, ask the interviewer for any feedback that could help you secure a similar role in the future.

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