Interviews are like the “grand finale” of the work and effort given to your job search and when you receive an invitation for an interview it can be difficult to pass up. A couple of weeks ago a job candidate brought up a question regarding job interviews in strange places – his interview took place in a hotel lobby. He wanted to know if interviewing in such places is common, and if so, what is the best way to handle such an awkward setting.
Hotel lobbies, restaurants, coffee shops and airport lounges are often used for interview settings and it can be awkward to talk about confidential information within an earshot of the next person drinking coffee and listening to your answers.
Interviews, no matter where they take place, can be both exciting and nerve-wracking when you are asked questions that are important to the interviewer. The pressure of responding to questions well while reading non-verbal cues and conveying your enthusiasm for the job is more than enough for one setting; however, in a public area, you need to bring an extra measure of awareness.
Most interviewers are focused on five main areas and they will no doubt take into consideration how well you answer the questions regarding: Can you do the job? What makes you want the job? How well do you interact with people? Are you a problem solver? How well do you communicate – listen and take directions?
When interviews take place in public settings, the same rules apply as if you were interviewing in their office; prepare ahead of time, research the company, know your areas of contribution and value, questions you ask for rapport building, acknowledging your desire for the job and asking for the next steps. Your job is to convey a genuine interest in working for the employer and give them reasons why they should hire you.
In a public setting you have little control over what happens around you, such as the person during a conversation had a bowl of salad accidentally dropped on their suit coming out of the waiter’s hand. The opportunity to show the potential employer how well you handle unexpected situations with grace can be one the best examples of how you would act as an employee.
Here are some ways to handle interviews in awkward places that might come in handy the next time you get invited to discuss a job over coffee.
• Arrive at your meeting early, so you can get a good overview of the restaurant or setting to scout out and become familiar with the location. Getting there early can help you with the nervous jitters.
• Be aware of your tone of voice and how loud you are in responding to questions. Nervous interviewers can often talk too low or too loud and it’s important that you are aware of your volume.
• Use good manners – the way you treat the wait staff and others can be big influencers on decision makers. Actions always speak louder than words.
• If food is involved always order items that are easy to manage, while you may enjoy the meal your primary focus is talking about the job and the interviewer’s goals.
• It’s a safe bet to avoid alcohol if possible. If you decide to drink, limit yourself to one. Alcohol can dull your responses and certainly create fuzzy thinking which can influence decisions.
• An interview is still an interview – until you have a job offer, never take for granted you have the job. Coffee interviews and hotel lobbies play a factor in decision making – treat them as important.
Always end the interview on a good positive note by conveying your interest in the job and appreciation. During a job search it’s a good rule of thumb to expect the unexpected and it pays off to prepare for being interviewed in strange places.
What has been your experience with interviews in public places?