How to Handle Yourself When Interviewing in a Public Place

How to Handle Interviewing at a Coffee Shop or Restaurant

Colleagues having informal meeting in cafe, cropped
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Employers sometimes schedule job interviews in a public place such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or outdoor arcade. It could be because they are hiring for a field position, they don't have a local office, or out of convenience because they are en route somewhere. It might also be the most practical option if they don't want their current employees to know that they're hiring a new staff member.

What to Do Before You Interview

Confirm the exact location, including the cross streets or corner.

There's a Starbucks on nearly every street in New York City, and the same holds true for many other national and international chains. For example, confirm that you're meeting at the XYZ diner on the South East corner of Main Street and 10th Avenue. Make sure you get the interviewer's cell phone number so you can call or text them in case you're delayed. Also be sure to ask how you will recognize the person you're meeting with and let them know what you look like, or what you'll be wearing.

Dress Professionally
Dress professionally, even if you are meeting at a fast food restaurant. You might feel out of place in a suit and tie or dress and heels but you should always err on the side of being too dressed up as opposed to looking like you're going to the movies or your local gym.

Prepare in Advance
Prepare just as you would for an office interview. Research the company, have responses ready for typical interview questions and have a list of questions to ask the interviewer.

Bring a portfolio and pad and pen so you can take notes. Or, if you're more comfortable using a mobile device bring your laptop. Also, bring a few copies of your resume and references, if you have them.

Focus on the Interview and Interviewer
It may be noisy in a public place due to distractions such as noisy customers, piped in music, and waitstaff coming and going.

Try to focus on the interviewer as best you can. Keep the interview focused, as well, by staying on topic. Even if you order a light snack to go with your coffee or tea, don't think about the food, think about what you need to say to make a good impression. Another common distraction is one that you might bring upon yourself, your cell phone. A ringing cell phone or pinging text message will distract you as well as the interviewer. Be sure to put your phone on mute or vibrate before you sit down to the interview

Watch Your Manners
Be careful what you order from the menu. If you're having a meal choose something simple and easy to eat and never order the most expensive item on the menu. Avoid messy food like spaghetti or hard to eat food like a hot panini made with crusty bread. Don't order anything to go (even a cup of coffee) and put it on the interviewer's tab, even if the interviewer orders something to go.  And don't tend to your hygiene at the table. Excuse yourself and retire to the men's room or ladies room to pick your teeth, brush your hair, or freshen your makeup. 

Follow-Up
Make sure you follow-up with a thank you note (just like you would have if you interviewed for the position in a corporate office) and to check on the status of your candidacy by phone or email.

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