6 questions you should be asking a prospective employee at an informal interview


Informal interviews are more than just ‘catching up over coffee’, although that’s exactly what they seem to be on the surface. As a hiring manager, if you’ve done your research and planned to meet a few people over the next few days, here is a primer on how to lead the conversation. Even if you’re not meeting them in person but virtually, you can use people’s natural love for the camera to keep the conversation flowing.

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Indeed, the whole point of an informal interview is to make it conversational, so how does asking questions come into the picture? More often than not, someone coming in for an informal interview may be too shy to volunteer information on their own, which is when these questions can come in handy.

What is your expectation from this meeting?

If the list of candidates you’re meeting has been informed of the agenda, this is a great question to start the conversation with, simply because it can catch people off-guard and get them thinking. What indeed do they expect from this meeting? Based on their answers, you can gauge several aspects of the candidate’s personality. If they’re able to jump up with a concrete answer immediately, you know they’ve been thinking about this too.

What was the most exciting thing you did at your last/current workplace?

This question is meant to be asked very casually, and in an open-ended manner, not just as another question to be ticked off the list. Answers can range from solving a complex problem together and single-handedly meeting a deadline to organising an event or stepping up when the need arose. Each of these experiences can tell you more about the candidate’s personality.

How do you spend your weekends?

Whatever the answer to this question is, don’t judge. The point of asking this question is to make the candidate comfortable, not pass judgment on their social life. So, whether they enjoy partying or playing cards at home, let this be an exercise in getting to know them beyond their workplace and formal clothes.

Do you have questions about what we do?

Again, an indicator of a candidate’s preparedness. Even for an informal interview, a candidate is expected to gain a basic understanding of the job and the role. If they’ve researched you well enough and read a few press releases, this question will tell you so. A clueless candidate may just not be the one for you.

Do you have any serious hobbies that you pursue on the side?

From photography and travel to painting and education, millennial employees love nothing more than leading a fulfilling, multifaceted life. This question is meant to explore what gives them fulfilment. Even better if this is an avenue for them to involve themselves in the company’s CSR activities.

Given a choice between switching jobs and studying further, what would you choose?

There’s a saying that nothing is ever enforced upon us - everything is a choice. This question (and broadly questions that ask for tough choices) can tell you about the candidate’s psyche. Are they driven by circumstances? Do they make their own path anyway? How much of their life is a conscious choice?

Keep in mind that an informal interview is meant to be two-sided, so asking questions alone is not enough. Volunteer information where required. If you’re gearing up to conduct a formal interview, here’s how to do it well.

If you’re a candidate, you should also be reading tips on acing a startup interview. Don’t forget, this interaction could also help you figure out your future organisation.


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