Is the coffee interview the way of the future?

In an age where workplaces are becoming more relaxed and formal practices are on the out, should we also be adopting this more relaxed approach to our interviews? I say yes!

What are we really hoping to achieve by putting job applicants through a gruelling hiring process? What’s the benefit to the candidate? What sort of impression of the business does this give? And do we, as hiring managers or recruiters, really see the candidate’s true self in an overly formal and structured interview?

Now I’m not saying that a more traditional interview and selection process doesn’t have its place, but let’s get real here. Some people are just naturally good at formal/structured interviews and are subsequently successful for many of the roles they apply for.

However, how many times have you hired someone who interviewed well but then once in the role they either didn’t have the technical skills required or weren’t a good cultural fit? But they answered the interview questions SO well, so where did it go wrong?

I think it’s all about balance and making sure your hiring process enables you to assess an applicant’s skills and experience and most importantly, get a real sense of the person’s true self – not just their pre-prepared answers to your generic interview questions, in an unnatural environment.

So how do you do this?

Aside from reviewing your hiring process to make sure each component has its place, provides value and is relevant to the level of role eg do you really need a panel interview  for a low-mid level role? or a four step interview process?, schedule a coffee interview with the candidate (or if you’re HR, set one up between the hiring manager and candidate).

An informal coffee interview is the perfect opportunity to assess whether this is someone you can see yourself working with day in, day out. You’ve already covered their technical skills in the initial interview and have seen how they conduct themselves in a professional setting, so this is your chance to ascertain whether you share similar values and see how they interact in a more relaxed setting and vice versa – remember this is just as much about the candidate summing you up as you are of them.

To streamline the process even further, if you’re working with a recruiter then they’ve already completed a face to face interview with the candidate and have established that they have the required technical skills so you can skip the traditional interview all-together and go straight to a coffee interview – bonus!

Alternatively, if you already have one or two candidates ear-marked for a role, you can hold a coffee interview as the initial interview before you take them through your internal recruitment process.

As someone who’s a big believer in not taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the recruitment process, I think the coffee interview holds a lot of value.

Ask yourself, what would you prefer as a candidate? Do you enjoy formal panel interviews? Video interviews? Do you feel your potential employer gets a true sense of who you are as a person through either of these and vice versa? I’m guessing not!

Written by Melanie Mansfield