Caught Between Casual and Formal: How to Handle a Coffee Shop Interview

Not every interview takes place in the structured confines of a conference room or sitting across a desk in Human Resources. It is becoming commonplace for an interview to be scheduled in a public place, such as a coffee shop. There can be a number of reasons for a coffee shop interview, including the employer doesn’t have a field office or simply prefers the atmosphere. Ultimately, it’s not your concern. Your job is to show up ready to impress.

Here are some tips for handling a coffee shop interview.

  • Make sure you confirm the interview details. Time, location and what you should look for to recognize the interviewer. Hopefully, they’ll have selected a nice quiet shop. But if it’s a busy Starbucks, you will simply have to adapt.
  • Despite being in a casual environment, be professional. Show up dressed for an interview. Have your resume, pad, pen, portfolio and anything else you’d bring to an interview. Unless the interviewer asks you not to. This might be some sort of pre-interview where they want to meet informally. Go with their lead.
  • Make sure you keep the coffee shop interview focused, regardless of how busy the world is around you.
  • While you can certainly assume the interviewer is picking up the tab, be mindful of what you order. Also, never let down your professional guard. Do not pick your teeth at the table. Minimize that burp to the best of your ability. Remember, it’s not a date, it’s an interview.
  • Don’t come to the coffee shop interview hungry and ready to chow down. Remember, you will be talking back and forth in hopes you can convince the person that’s sitting there to hire you. Eat light or not at all, but focus on the conversation.
  • A coffee shop interview will be just like any other so be prepared for such. Know everything you can about the company. Be ready to answer the standard interview questions about why you left your last job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, where you see yourself in five years, etc.
  • Arriving early is de rigueur for job interviews. If you get there first, wait until they arrive outside or find a seat somewhere. Don’t order anything while you wait. You don’t want your interviewer to show up while you’re in the middle of something. The idea is they’re the priority.
  • At the end of the coffee shop interview, exchange contact information stressing that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Send a nice thank you note within 24 hours, hitting all the high points of the interview and, knowing more about the position, how excited you are about the opportunity and your plans should you get hired.

Whether your interview is in an office, in the park over a game of chess or in a coffee shop, appropriate job interview etiquette is not to be dismissed. The interviewer will be looking at the way you dress, talk, greet them, deal with others, how you communicate and more. Make the best impression by adhering to the rules.


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LiveCareer Staff Writer

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