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Coffee or Formal?

Are you up for a coffee meeting with a potential employee?  Or do you like to keep it formal?

What if we talked about something a bit outside the box in terms of a screening tool for recruiting the right candidate? Would you squirm or feel uncomfortable if I asked you to meet a candidate for a coffee, not an interview, just a coffee chat?

Recently something I have been encouraging clients to do is meet with possible candidates I feel might be the right fit for the job I am recruiting. The Hiring Manager might still be in the throes of being very clear on who it is they are looking for, so I recommend a coffee chat with a prospective candidate.

What are the key benefits of a coffee chat with a candidate, for you as the Hiring Manager?

  • Avoids encroaching on multiple stakeholders calendars in convening an interview panel. Getting everyone together same day / same place and time is sometimes challenging.
  • Avoids disappointment for the interview panel if for whatever reason the candidate just isn’t what they are looking for. That way you save face as well.
  • Allows open and honest discussion in an informal setting.
  • Allows the Hiring Manager to find out the ‘essence’ of the person and ascertain a lot more information about them than their resume outlines.
  • Enables both the candidate and Hiring Manager the opportunity to ask those questions which may be deemed ‘inappropriate’ in a formal interview setting.
  • Absolutely allows the Hiring Manager to ascertain if the person is the right ‘fit’.
  • Enables clean communication through story telling. Time isn’t so limited in this informal setting, so the candidate has the opportunity to story tell.
  • The atmosphere isn’t as stifling as often a formal interview situation is. You can get so much more out of a candidate this way.
  • A coffee chat allows you an hour of ‘out of the office’ meeting space. Clears the cobwebs and gives you a chance to think clearly about who it is you really want in your key role. You have time to consolidate your thoughts in this space.
  • Gives you a benchmark in terms of ‘fit’ so you can move forward with a clearer picture of who it is you are looking for in comparison to the candidate you have just met.
  • Gives you the confidence in who you select to formally interview. This makes you look good in front of the interview panel, after all the interview panel often consists of someone from HR and a peer. It makes you feel good as a Hiring Manager when you have high calibre candidates short-listed.
  • It’s an open opportunity for networking – something we should all be doing more of in this sector.

But for the upsides, there might be a down side to these informal coffee chats. I have seen in a couple of situations so far some candidates have been used to having the ‘formal’ interview as the only option, all the way through their career. They find this coffee meeting quite difficult setting in terms of what they say, when they say it and actually opening up. Although this meeting ‘medium’ is a fantastic opportunity for a candidate to showcase themselves to the Hiring Manager, not all candidates know how to do that, nor does this come easily to them.

It is very important to ensure the intent of the meeting is made clear to both the Hiring Manager and candidate for it to be a success. It isn’t an opportunity to ask those ‘can you give me an example of’ type questions. It is a fantastic opportunity for the Hiring Manager to find out who the candidate really is, the opportunity to share the vision of your business unit, or the strategic direction of the company so the candidate has a clear picture of the employer. It’s a fantastic branding exercise isn’t it?

So what do you think? Are you up for a coffee chat at a buzzy café in the City with someone you might consider employing? Think about it, it’s a new way of working in the recruitment space.

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