How To Prepare for an Informal Interview in 5 Easy Steps
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Informal interviews are a great opportunity to share with a recruiter the value you could bring to an organisation. Held in a casual setting, informal interviews allow the potential employer to observe your personality type and communication style without the formalities of a traditional office environment. While designed to be casual, informal interviews still require the same level of preparation you would put into a traditional interview. In this article, we guide you through preparing for an informal interview, offer tips for impressing the recruiter during the interview and provide the steps you should take to follow up afterwards.
How to prepare for an informal interview
Here's a guide on how to prepare for an informal interview in five easy steps:
1. Do your research
Conduct in-depth research on the organisation, its products and services and its achievements. Identify who its major competitors are. Review the company's blog and social media sites. Look on career websites and see if you're connected with anyone who works there who might provide you with general company information or information on its culture or the department in which you would be working. Good research ensures you come to the interview with a thorough understanding of the company's values and its place in the industry. This can help you make a more confident decision on whether to accept an offer.
2. Analyse the job
Take the time to analyse the job description and consider what the company is looking for in a candidate. Make a list of the key skills, knowledge and qualities the role requires. Consider things like the work schedule, expected salary and company benefits, too. It's important to understand not only the job's requirements but also what compensation the company offers. This helps you determine if the position offers the right compensation package to meet your career goals, financial needs and work style.
Read more: How to Succeed in a Virtual Interview
3. Match your qualifications
Once you have identified the skills critical for success in the role, assess your own qualifications and match them to the job requirements. Create a list of up to 10 assets, including skills, certifications, abilities, knowledge and education. Think of specific examples where you used some of your skills in previous positions. The closer your qualifications are to what the job requires, the more likely it is that an employer takes interest in you. It's also important to understand how your skills might apply to the position so you can answer common interview questions like, What personal skills do you think make you qualified for this position?
4. Prepare to discuss your career path
Be prepared to discuss the long-term goals you have for your career. Itemise the strengths that have helped you add value to your previous positions. Focus on goals that align with company values or goals to further align yourself with the position. For example, if you have a desire to learn an additional programming language that the company is using for its next big project, you might be a more valuable asset to the team since you have mutual goals.
5. Bring ideas
Be prepared with ideas for how you would fit into the company and the value you would bring to your position. Consider what value other employers found in your skills and work ethic. Include context for your interviewer so they can better understand how you can apply your knowledge and experience. You can also bring ideas about how to improve company processes or address certain issues. For example, you could discuss your idea for increasing team productivity through weekly status meetings and motivational huddles each Monday.
Informal interview tips
Look at these tips to help you perform your best during an informal interview:
Just like a formal interview, come prepared with questions to ask the interviewer. Consider questions that help you explore the goals, values and expectations of the company and further details about the position you're seeking. Some questions you could ask are:
Can you tell me a little more about why you reached out to me?
What changes do you see in the company over the next year?
What do you like about your job?
What do you like about working for the company?
What are some challenges the company is currently dealing with?
How do you see me fitting in?
Bring visual aids
Besides extra copies of your CV, bring your business card and a portfolio with a pen and paper so you can take notes. Bringing a CV and portfolio further increases your professionalism and provides you with a quick reference of all of your important credentials and skills. A good portfolio is a portable tool that can help an employer learn more about how you apply your skills by showing finished products. For example, if you're a graphic designer, a portfolio can show an interviewer some of your best designs.
It's important to practice your active listening skills during the interview, as you may need to repeat specific details to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. Make eye contact, nod in response to what the interviewer is saying, smile and show you're engaged and rephrase important points in your own words. For example, you could say, “I'd like to go back to something you said…” or “I agree with you regarding…”.
Keep your responses professional
Because of the casual nature of informal interviews, it's easy for candidates to speak too freely. But remember that the interviewer still takes careful note of what you say and do. Keep things on a professional level and avoid saying anything negative about former employers, supervisors or co-workers. Focus on a positive tone and your enthusiasm for your career and the position you're seeking. Speak kindly of others and focus on how you think being a part of the company can be mutually beneficial for you both.
Dress in business casual or smart casual
Because the interview is informal, you can wear business casual or smart casual, depending on the industry. Examples of smart casual are jeans with a blazer, a button-down shirt with khakis, a blazer with a t-shirt underneath and nice jeans or a nice top with tailored jeans. Business casual attire provides a professional but relaxed look for the interview. It helps show an employer that you're still serious about the position, but also recognise the informal nature of the interview.
Prepare for an offer
You may find that you're offered a job on the spot or shortly after the interview. Be prepared to express your excitement, but don't feel compelled to decide on the spot. Give yourself time to reflect on whether the position would be a good move for you. You can consider other positions or offers before making a final decision. If you need time to think, communicate this need to your interviewer so they're not wondering if you want the position.
How to follow-up after an informal interview
Whether you decide to accept the position the employer offers or decline the offer, it's important to write a follow-up letter, email or make a phone call. This is both a gesture of respect and an indicator of your position on the job offer. Here's how to follow up after an informal interview:
1. Reiterate your interest in the position
Following your interview, you can reiterate your interest in the position. Include a brief summary of how you believe your skills and experience can contribute to the position and the company and express your gratitude for being granted an interview. This shows the employer that you're interested, professional and respect their time.
2. Explain any reservations you may have about the position
If you think about the position and realise you have certain reservations about it, you can express those reservations. Think about what your reservations are, whether they're experience-related or company-related. You may find that the job doesn't offer a high enough salary or that you think your skill set doesn't exactly match what the employer needs. It's important to explain these reservations, so the employer understands your position.
3. Draft your letter
Draft your letter using a header, introduction, letter body and closing. You can start with a professional salutation like Dear or Greetings and include a header with your personal information and the addressee. Open with professional language and explain your interest in the position and any reservations you have about the position. Close your letter with a thank-you and professional salutation followed by your full name.
4. Send your letter within 24 hours
It's important to send a follow-up no more than 24 hours after your interview. This helps ensure the employer remembers you and understands your thoughts on the position and the interview. You can send your letter by email or call the interviewer and leave a message. If you don't get a response, that might just mean the employer is reviewing your application and CV and can't respond right away. You can follow up again in a week if you hear nothing from them.
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