We've all walked into a coffee shop to see someone being interviewed for a job. At least, that's what we suspect is going on. Maybe we don't overhear the conversation, but we can sense that a job offer is definitely on the line. We quietly root for this person as we wait to order our cup of joe.
If you're thinking, "Excuse me, I'm a white-collar professional, and we don't do interviews at coffee shops," then you might want to update your views before your next job interview. Well-paid professionals are doing job interviews in public places such as coffee shops, food courts, or the nearest outside table at the strip mall just like everyone else. Our work culture is just that way these days.
Now it's your turn to do a coffee shop interview! You've never done one before, and you have many questions. What if I get there first? Do I go ahead and find a table? Which table should I pick? Do I go ahead and order myself a drink while I wait? What if the interviewer gets there first and offers to buy me a drink? How do I speak so the interviewer can hear me without broadcasting my life story to the entire room?
Don't worry; you are not the first person to feel nervous at the prospect of trying to put your best foot forward in this situation. Many job applicants have felt the same sense of Pike Place Roast-induced trepidation! Here are five, quick tips for pulling off the very public job interview:
1. Getting a table. If you get there first, go ahead and snag a table. Look for one that offers as much out-of-the-way privacy as possible for your sake -- e.g., in the back of the room, a crowbar's separation from other tables, even outside if the weather is nice. If the interviewer gets there first, then listen for cues, such as being asked, "Where should we sit?" In this case, be quick to offer a suggestion with confidence to show off your decision-making skills.
2. Buying drinks. Should you order a drink if you get there first? It's best to wait for the interviewer to arrive before ordering your drink. It's just the polite thing to do, like waiting for your friend to arrive at the restaurant before ordering your food. Besides, the interviewer may just offer to buy you a coffee drink. So, which one will you choose?
3. Ordering on the interviewer's dime. If the interviewer offers to purchase a drink for you, please keep your order reasonable. This isn't the time to order your usual fully-loaded Venti latte. Keep your order to a small, simple cup of cream-and-sugar coffee or basic tea. Again, it's the polite thing to do, since you're on someone else's dime here (someone you want to impress, I hope). It's also acceptable to politely decline the offer and order nothing. I've heard of some interviewees bringing a travel mug full of coffee instead; no word on whether they got the job.
4. Calming your nerves. You might feel a special sense of performance anxiety in this situation, since you could be overheard by a room full of passerby even as smooth jazz blares from the company's music system. Sit up straight, speak with confidence, and modulate your voice level. For practice, you might visit the location beforehand with a friend or family member to test the acoustics in addition to the simple beverages. Practice talking and find the volume level that allows you to be heard without feeling like you're broadcasting to the room.
5. Keeping your focus. You're trying to answer the interviewer's question when a toddler at a nearby table throws his cake pop to the floor and breaks into a screaming tantrum that goes on...and on. Oh, no -- how to keep your focus, right? Expect distractions, and lots of them, in this situation. Keep your eyes on the interviewer, lean in slightly to hear questions if you must, smile, and appear unflappable. If you momentarily lose your train of thought due to distractions (what word was I looking for, I forgot!), then don't stress. You'll get back on track.
I'll leave it there, because I don't want to pour it on, pun intended! Please feel free to offer your good tips for making a coffee shop job interview work. I'll raise a toast to your good insights.