In the 21st Century, job interviews are just as likely to be conducted outside the confines of an office meeting room as they are inside – and that may terrify some.
Your next job interview might be in a coffee shop, on the telephone, or via video chat over the internet using a system such as Skype or Facetime, with plenty of things that can wrong.
It throws up all sort of problems, with the rules of engagement varying depending on the job interview method.
Careers and coffee: Many interviews are now conducted outside of the office, such as in a coffee shop – so how should a candidate prepare?
For instance, if it is a coffee shop meet up, should you assume it is more of a casual chat about a role?
If it is on the telephone, does it matter if you’re just sitting around at home in your undergarments?
Over the internet, what happens if the connection starts breaking up?
As part of our Interview cheat sheet series, This is Money takes a look at how to approach a job interview not held inside the safety of an office, with experts from recruiter Michael Page and graduate job search app Debut giving their tips.
COFFEE SHOP INTERVIEW HAS THE SAME ETIQUETTE
People may instantly think that an interview in a coffee shop may be more ‘casual’ – while some might not even like hot drinks and may feel panicked as to what to order.
Is it strange to order nothing? No, but it is worth grabbing yourself a water.
An expert at Debut, said: ‘In some ways, a coffee shop interview is just like any ordinary job interview, as the same etiquette applies in most circumstances.
‘However, the key to handling this type of interview is to judge the situation in advance, and work out the formality based on the information you have received from the employer.
‘Also, it’s important to gauge the atmosphere as you arrive at the venue and be more aware of your surroundings than usual. Remember, you are being judged before you even walk through the door.
‘Employers chose to conduct interviews outside of the office for various reasons.
‘One employer claimed they held interviews at a gay café in London, to see how candidates responded to the setting and their views on gay people.
‘They also worked with the café staff to assess the candidate’s general manners while in a casual environment, such as their attitude towards waiters.
‘Often for the employer, coffee shop interviews are a way for them to meet a potential employee on a more casual basis to determine if they have the right personality or fit for the company.’
It is worth adding that in the modern open plan office world it can also be because they find it possible to get a meeting room.
Debut adds: ‘This presents an opportunity for candidates to show off their personality, rather than focusing too much on impressing the employer with their top skills.
‘Candidates preparing for an interview outside of the office should bear in mind that although they should remain professional, they can lift the lid on their personality, style, hobbies, and interests.
‘For this type of interview, it may not be necessary to wear formal business attire.’
However, it does depend on the job and remember it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Debut adds: ‘Usually smart-casual is a way to play it safe, but always research the location beforehand so you can make a good call.’
INVITED FOR A DRINK? DON’T RELAX TOO MUCH
Kyra Cordrey, operating director at Michael Page, says: ‘In some situations, a candidate who has impressed the interviewer might be invited to a lunch, dinner or drinks event.
‘This is in order to meet the rest of the team before a final decision is made – but it is not an opportunity to relax and simply have a good time.
‘Although the event may involve alcohol and take place in a casual setting, it’s still an extension of the interview stage – remember that you are constantly being assessed.’
Pants: Even on the telephone, you should dress to impress – it will give you a confidence boost
DRESS TO IMPRESS EVEN ON THE TELEPHONE
The temptation with a telephone interview is to simply sit around like a slob on the sofa and get through it in between television show binges.
Debut says: ‘Telephone interviews are often used by employers to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for the first round of face-to-face interviews.
‘An advantage you have during a telephone interview is that you can access the internet if you need to quickly search the definition of a word you don’t understand, or a company the employer mentions.
‘It’s always helpful to have your CV in front of you, as it’s likely the employer will have a copy too – that way, if they refer to any of the details, you can ensure you relay accurate information and can use it as a guide to talk them through your work experience and skills.
‘When it comes to dress code, obviously your presentation won’t be noticed by the employer, however what you are wearing can impact how you feel on that day.
‘If you have rolled out of bed without getting dressed for an early phone interview, you will likely feel unprepared and rushed.
‘This is not to say you have to dress formally, but to get in the mood, it is helpful to have eaten and showered beforehand – being well-groomed and clean can help you to feel positive and energised.
‘Always avoid eating on the phone, especially chewing gum – this can be annoying and disrespectful to some employers. If snacks help to calm your nerves, make sure you indulge before the phone call.
‘To avoid being flustered during the telephone interview, make sure you have a glass of water handy.
‘You might be required to do a lot of talking, and there’s nothing like a sip of water to fix a dry throat.
‘Stay calm by taking a few moments to collect your thoughts, you don’t need to answer questions instantly – it’s acceptable to take your time.
‘Listening is equally as important as talking during the interview – it can be more difficult to focus on the phone than face-to-face.
‘You will feel better if you do the phone call in a quiet room with as little noise as possible, away from any potential distractions. If you live with other people, make the effort to warn them about your interview, asking them not to disturb you and keep quiet.
‘Remember to pay close attention throughout the conversation and always take notes that you can refer back to – your pen and notepad are your best friends.’
PREPARATION IS ALWAYS KEY
Kyra says: ‘Employers may sometimes suggest alternative interview settings.
‘This could be for a number of reasons – it may help to save time, or the distance may restrict the possibility of a face-to-face meeting.
‘But whatever the location, the early stages of an interview process still remain crucial.
‘Even if you’re meeting the interviewer via Skype or in a more casual setting such as a café, you’ll still need to make a good impression, show professionalism and prepare for the interview as you would if it were being held in a meeting room.
‘Regardless of where an interview takes place, preparation is always the key to a successful interview – it’ll not only boost your confidence, but will also allow you to remain calm and professional in any situation, particularly a challenging one.’
It may be tempting to keep it casual over the internet – but it could harm your chances of bagging the job
INTERNET INTERVIEW? DON’T DO IT IN BED!
As with the telephone, it can be tempting to be extremely casual if you are being interviews over the internet. But it might ruin your chances of bagging a job.
Kyra says: ‘Although your physical appearance should not impact the way you or your professional abilities are perceived during an interview, we still live in a world where first impressions count.
‘We usually recommend that candidates dress for an interview in a way that fits the type of organisation they are meeting with, even if the interview is not held in their offices.
‘If you are being interviewed via a video call, it’s still important to dress appropriately and choose a suitable location to take the call.
‘We’ve heard of candidates attending video interviews while sitting on their bed, wearing inappropriate clothing, or sitting in a busy café, and the interviewers certainly weren’t impressed.
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‘More businesses are using pre-recorded video interviews as a way of selecting candidates, and this can sometimes be the most challenging kind of interview.
‘Instead of engaging in a face-to-face conversation with someone in a meeting room or on a video call, you’ll be talking directly to a camera as questions pop up on the screen.
‘You’ll need to make sure that you are extremely well-prepared in order to answer every question in the best possible way, without forgetting anything.
‘When you attend a traditional job interview, you’ll usually meet with one or two interviewers, but when you take part in a video interview, your recorded answers may be seen by several other people.
‘Always take the interviewer’s lead, as in most cases, they will set the tone of the interview.
‘Some interviews can be more casual than others, and as long as you remain professional, it’s acceptable, and sometimes expected of you to show a little more of your personality during the meeting.’
FOUR MORE KEY TIPS FOR AN INTERNET GRILLING
Debut say: ‘With many companies cutting back on their recruiting spend and with the fierce competition for high quality candidates, hosting video interviews on platforms such as Skype and FaceTime have become very popular amongst employers.
‘They involve having the experience of a face-to-face meeting minus the travel time and costs, creating a more flexible interview method with minimal work required from both parties.
‘Preparation is key for video interviews. Make sure you set the scene for your interview by selecting an appropriate place or room that gives you privacy and quiet, but also has tidy surroundings.
‘If you are doing a Skype interview in your bedroom, make sure you allow time to tidy so that the employer doesn’t get a glimpse of your clothes scattered on the floor.’
According to Debut, you also need to check for any potential technical errors:
1. You may need to adjust your lighting – dim and natural lighting is the best option, but run a test by using your preview screen box.
2. Your webcam should be clear and functioning with good camera quality, and positioned in the correct place (if not using your laptop).
3. You should have a good internet connection to avoid signal problems.
4. Ensure your microphone is switched on and working – test the sound quality by Skyping a friend before your interview.
Debut adds: ‘During the interview, it is important to think about your social interaction and body language. Even though the interviewer may only see you from the waist up, it is still important to dress in smart attire, as it will make you feel more serious about the interview.
‘It may also help your performance, as the interview will feel more formal and important.
‘It will have a positive influence on your posture too, as you will feel more inclined to sit up straight, which will make you look more presentable.
‘It is difficult to portray your body language in a video interview, but you can focus on your tone of voice by sounding enthusiastic and positive.
‘Be energetic, smile, articulate your words, and maintain eye contact with the employer to show them you are passionate about the job opportunity – that’s how you ace a Skype interview.’
INTERVIEW IN A CAR – IT CAN HAPPEN
We asked the experts if they had heard any unusual locations for a job interview.
Kyra said: ‘We once had a candidate who was picked up at the train station by the interviewer, with the intention of travelling back to the office to conduct the interview, but the interviewer decided to kick-off the interview in the car instead.
‘This might have been a tactic to test the candidate and see how he would react in an abnormal situation, but as he was well-prepared, his confidence was very well perceived by the interviewer.
‘A candidate once told us that the fire alarm went off in the building where his interview was being held.
‘He calmly accompanied the interviewer outside the building and across the road to a nearby park, where he was able to successfully finish the interview, without letting this interruption affect him.’
Expect the unexpected: Job app Debut says it has asked candidates for a game of table tennis mid-interview to see how they react
HOW ARE YOUR TABLE TENNIS SKILLS?
Meanwhile, Debut said: ‘We’ve interviewed candidates in unusual spots ranging from a local bar, to a table tennis table, to Africa (via Skype).
‘As a start-up company, it’s important to find candidates with personalities that fit with the wider team, so seeing if they’re up for a game of table tennis mid-interview is a great way of gauging this.
‘Don’t worry, table tennis skill was not judged as part of the process.
‘A member of our marketing team was on holiday in Sierra Leone when he was invited to interview.
‘He might not have packed his finest interview attire, but he still made a good enough impression to bag the job.
‘Candidates should be prepared to face an interview at any time and in any place – and if you’re able to establish a strong relationship with your interviewer, let your personality shine and demonstrate your best skills, does it matter if you’re sat in a bar or a boardroom?’