Coffee interview


Virtual interviews, in person interviews, panel interviews, group interviews, one-on-one interviews, coffee interviews. There are so many different interview types, the mind boggles. As a jobseeker, your approach needs to be different for each one. Although – breathe a sigh of relief – some aspects remain the same. So, what do you do (differently or the same) if you’re invited for a chat in a local café with a potential employer?

Here are some tips on the coffee interview: what to expect and how to prepare for it.


  • A coffee interview is an informal meet and greet between an interviewer and jobseeker
  • It provides both parties with the opportunity to sound each other out in a casual setting and decide whether they want to progress to a more formal interview
  • The meeting usually takes place in a local café, although virtual chats have also gained traction in recent times
  • It is generally 30-45 minutes in length
  • A coffee interview may be for a particular role or to establish whether there would be a potential role for the jobseeker (especially those with more senior, specialist experience)
  • It involves less preparation than a formal interview (although you still need to do your homework!)
  • It is a chance to let your personality shine!


Preparation is key

Don’t be misled: the setting may be casual, but your approach should be anything but. Good preparation is crucial, as for any interview. Research the company, your interviewer, anticipate questions and draft responses. Also consider noting a few questions of your own. What do you want to find out from your interviewer?

You may also find it useful to find out what your interviewer looks like, so you can easily pick them out when you walk into the café. LinkedIn and the company website may have a decent headshot. If not, ask your interviewer how you will recognise them.

Dress to impress

Turning up in jeans and a T-shirt is definitely not the way to go. But nor is power dressing. It’s safest to opt for the more formal end of casual: smart pants/skirt and a shirt, for example. You’re aiming for an approachable yet presentable look.

Check the details

Make a note of interview time, date and location as well as your interviewer’s name and contact details. It may seem like a no-brainer but sometimes people miss interviews for the simplest of reasons.

Take your toolkit

Make sure your phone is fully charged, especially if you are heading to an unfamiliar location. Also take any short notes/questions as well as blank paper, a pen and a couple of copies of your resume.

Mute your phone

Yes, the interview may be informal but last thing you want is for your phone to buzz or ring every five minutes. Mute it! You’ll have time to deal with any missed messages and calls afterwards.

Turn up on time

Be professional, be prompt. You’ll want to allow sufficient time to arrive at your interview location. Maybe try the route in advance and map out a few parking options so you feel more relaxed about the journey. On the day, if you’re delayed for reasons outside your control, call your interviewer asap to let them know.

Be mindful of the ‘Waiter Rule’

‘A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.’ So said former American CEO Bill Swanson many years ago. The “Waiter Rule” still holds true today. Your interviewer will likely be observing how you treat waiting staff during your café meet.

Order thoughtfully

Common interview etiquette is that your interviewer will pay so consider budget and follow their lead. You’ll want to choose something simple and easy to sip – and avoid food if possible. This is an interview, and you don’t want to be slurping a milkshake or reaching for a toothpick to remove the pesky spinach from between your front teeth.

Communicate with confidence

Just as in a formal interview, speak naturally, clearly and confidently. And think about your body language, too. Try to sit up straight and maintain good eye contact. And avoid fidgeting and expansive hand gestures (especially if you have a large latte in front of you).

Focus, focus, focus!

Hopefully, you’ll be tucked away at a corner table in a nice, quiet café. If not, try to maintain concentration despite the music, movement, chatter and street noise. You can always ask your interviewer to repeat a question or suggest you move to another spot. Chances are your interviewer will be struggling to focus for the same reasons.

Ask questions

This is a chat, after all and a great opportunity to ask your interviewer questions. It’s a good idea to keep them job-related but there’s scope to quiz your interviewer on their personal take, too. You might want to ask them why they have achieved success in the organisation, or what keeps them there.

Show your interest

If you like the sound of the role and organisation – and things seem to be moving in the right direction – confirm your interest at the end of the interview. Ask your interviewer about next steps. It will feel good to wrap up your meeting on a positive note.

Follow up

As with any interview, it’s a wise move to send your interviewer a thank you message within 24 hours. It’ll hopefully put you front and centre of their mind. Aim to follow up with them again if you haven’t heard back within a week (or whatever timeframe has been indicated in your chat).

Good luck!

If you’d like to chat about job opportunities over a cup of coffee, contact the Optimal Recruitment team today on or 02 8416 4181.