The Coffee Interview – Cosy Chat or Formal Process?

Whilst it is common practice for recruiters to meet candidates for a coffee to discuss a job prospect, we are increasingly seeing employers replacing the first-stage interview with ‘the coffee interview’.

Often, there will be a good reason as to why the interview is being held off site; perhaps the role is not live yet, or is of a sensitive nature, or the hiring manager prefers the approach.

This approach is often favoured for mid-senior positions, and can be positioned as ‘informal’ or ‘relaxed’, however, it is important to remember that any meeting with a potential employer, regardless of the setting, should be given as much attention as a formal interview.


How to Prepare

  • Get the basics right – know when, where, and who you are meeting as well as what you should wear
  • Get the mobile number of your contact and agree an exact location for your meeting
  • Take your CV and any relevant documents with you
  • Do your research into the role and company

 On the Day

  • Treat it as a formal interview – even if the setting is not, as you are still being assessed as a fit for the organisation and potential role you are there to discuss
  • Have questions prepared, even if you do not have a role profile or detailed description, e.g. something as simple as ‘what was it about my CV or skills/ experience that stood out to you for this opportunity?’

Whilst it may not be what you expected of a job interview, there are benefits, as well as challenges to this informal-style approach.  You should be aware of all of these before attending.


  • Hiring managers often open up more during coffee meetings as they feel less bound by formal structure
  • Typically, feedback is shared more quickly because there is not a need to wait for formal decisions/ processes to take place
  • It provides an opportunity to truly gel with the hiring manager and build rapport from the outset, potentially giving you a step up at the next stage
  • You can quickly assess if the hiring manager is someone you could work with


  • Initiating a relationship, without oversharing or becoming overly-familiar
  • Ensuring you walk away with a more detailed understanding about the potential opportunity, not more ambiguity
  • Sharing enough information through ‘conversational style’ to give the hiring manager confidence in your abilities and suitability
  • If you are successful in moving to the next stage, then having to go through the formal process which can be very different and stretch out the timeline


If you are looking for new opportunities in the transformation and change sector, please contact Sara Harrison or Angela McCann at Hamilton Forth.

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