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The Advantages of Coffee Chats


“Coffee Chats” - are they advantageous or potentially dangerous?

In our time poor and fast paced world, one of the most important roles of the line manager, is to inspire, hire and enable the right people to then achieve an organisation's objectives.

For even the most proactive business leaders however, the very thought of recruiting a challenging role and the gaps required to be created for multiple interviews from even the highest quality short-shortlist after a robust agency process, results in a resigned and not always silent sigh. 

The reason the vast majority of candidates are exploring multiple other opportunities is that there is a lack of team or organisational direction, resourcing, inspiration or leadership in their current role. Some state they would compromise or reduce remuneration expectations for a “leader worth following”. A long interview process can be wasted time for both parties if a candidate isn’t clear early on, in the fit with a hiring manager. 

Enter the Coffee Chat

Given the desire for a mutually beneficial and efficient hiring process for both organisation and candidate, a “coffee chat” or informal interview can be an effective and efficient exchange of information to sense-check the candidate (who is often more in impressive in person than on paper), the role, and “fit” for both parties, before further time is committed and a more formal interview is arranged. 

A candidate has the opportunity confirm their understanding of the nuances of the role and the organisation's challenges, and get a sense of whether they could see themselves reporting to the hiring manager.

A manager is often then rewarded with a more intimate understanding of a candidate’s career history, motivations and drivers, communication skills including active listening and future career aspirations.

Whether thirty minutes or sixty (as so many end up being when the dialogue is productive), it is rare that a coffee chat isn’t useful for both parties to determine whether moving forward is desirable.

Our Top Tips

Whilst designed to be an honest conversation and exchange of information – it is important to remember that coffee chats are still “assessments” regardless of which chair you sit in or title you hold. Common mistakes from both hiring managers and candidates include:

  • Forgetting to be respectful of the other individual e.g. arriving late. I’d also suggest ordering together (the client usually purchases) and mutually agreeing appropriate seating where both parties can hear clearly. Early morning is often a better time to meet than during the lunchtime rush, unless the venue is confirmed as conducive to conversation.
  • Being overly familiar or prescribed. At a coffee chat the aim is to align energy and build rapport sufficiently that both parties wish to continue the conversation in a more formal setting
  • Providing insufficient or too much detail. Insincerity and brevity is as dangerous as monopolising the conversation
  • Speaking disrespectfully of the organisation or team members. Honesty is good, but keep it professional.

Finally, remember; during a formal interview process a slight faux pas can be overlooked when balanced against the sum total of the interview. An offhand remark during a coffee chat however could suggest a lack of emotional intelligence, and can rapidly conclude the interaction.

At Beyond, we specialise in matching an organisations requirements with a person’s motivations, skills and previous experience. More importantly, we love matching employees with hiring managers to ensure both have a more satisfying workday.

To discuss how Beyond can relieve pressure for you and reduce time to hire – contact us today. Perhaps we can meet over coffee!