Job interviews don't always take place in an office; many interviews occur in restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, airports, golf courses and even parks, according to a study by the staffing firm.
Hiring managers often hold interviews outside the office because of scheduling conflicts or so they can get to know candidates in a more casual setting, said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.
"Even if a meeting takes place in a nontraditional setting, job seekers should prepare as they would for a regular interview and maintain their professionalism throughout the discussion," Hosking said in a statement.
To help job seekers succeed at off-site job interviews, OfficeTeam offered several tips:
- Do your homework. Take some time to do some added prep work for interviews in nontraditional settings. Get the directions and parking information for where the interview is being held, and look up the person you're meeting with on LinkedIn so you can spot him or her in a crowd.
- Dress appropriately. Even though the interview may take place in a coffee shop or a park, that doesn't mean you should dress casually. Unless you're told otherwise, wear office-appropriate attire to the interview.
- Be attentive. If the meeting is in a public place, it's easy to get distracted by the people around you. Be sure to keep your attention on the interviewer the entire time.
- Mind your table manners. If your interview is taking place over a meal, don't order anything messy or difficult to eat. This will allow you to focus more on the discussion. In addition, don't order the most expensive item on the menu, since the interviewer will likely be picking up the bill. You would also do well by not ordering an alcoholic beverage.
- Say thanks. In some instances, time and access to materials, like your résumé, may be limited. In order to leave a positive impression, be sure to send a thank-you by the next day. Use this as an opportunity to follow up on your discussion and provide any additional information you didn't get to cover.
While many off-site locations are perfectly acceptable for an interview, others may leave job seekers with an uneasy feeling. Hosking advised those preparing for an interview in a nontraditional setting to trust their gut if the location doesn't seem appropriate.
"Although workers should be flexible about interview locations, they shouldn't ignore their instincts if a meeting venue seems out of line," Hosking said. "It could be a red flag that the opportunity isn't a good fit."
The research was based on surveys of 600 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada.
Where to host an off-site job interview
The location of an off-site job interview should fit with the employer's goals of bringing the event off-site. If employees are getting together for an interview during a lunchtime slot, a nice restaurant is an obvious choice. If the goal is to make things feel more casual or see how the individual fits in with the team, something fun like mini-golf or a team-building experience, such as a ropes course, could be a good option. If your company has a large corporate campus, it might be nice to take the interviewee out for a walk around the campus or to use the campus transportation system; although the interview would still be on-site, the change of scenery could help an employee relax.
What makes a great off-site job interview location?
Some venues are better than others for off-site interviews. Again, the goals of the outing define what really makes a good location, but it's important to meet some basic requirements. Make sure you have the following:
- The ability to talk and hear each other. It's difficult to conduct an interview when you can't communicate well. While it may seem like fun to go to an amusement park or a ball game, it's difficult to hold a real conversation there. If this is your plan, consider conducting the interview portion of the day first and then going off-site for a more informal social outing later in the day.
- The buy-in of the applicant. Make sure the candidate is on board with your plan and knows what's going to happen ahead of time.
- Room for groups. Your off-site outing is likely to take place in a group setting, so the ability to get everyone together should be a key consideration.
- Lighting and safety checks. Are you in a well-lit location? Are there other people around? Is there access to emergency services? The candidate needs to feel safe with you, and you need to be able to handle any issues that may arise. These considerations help to ensure you're within human resources' legal and ethical requirements.
What are some bad places to have off-site job interviews?
You should avoid doing interviews in places that may make employees or applicants uncomfortable or exclude them in some way. These locations include one-on-one car rides in close quarters, activities in venues that could exclude an applicant with disabilities who may meet all of the physical requirements of the actual job or locations involving alcohol.
In cases where you will be more active or outside the traditional bounds of an interview, communicate the plan with your applicant well ahead of time. If you are aware of the implications of your choices and are careful to avoid concerns about harassment or discrimination, off-site interviews can work well.