Informal Interview: What Is it? How To Prepare?

Wondering what an informal interview is? Did you get called to meet with someone at a prospect company that you are looking to work at and they said the interview was going to be “informal”? We’re going to jump into what an informal interview is, what you might experience in this interview and how to prepare yourself.

What Is An Informal Interview

An informal interview is the best type of interview. The reason for this is because the company has decided that they’d like to either begin their relationship with you on a semi-personal basis or that you have enough merit to receive an informal interview.

Informal interviews aren’t usually given out. It is when the conversation you are about to have with a future employer is unofficial, meaning that their normal process for which they hire is excluded. In a way, you are receiving special treatment. Normally, interviews will involve a large number of formalized questions being asked to the interviewers. All of which are then being judged on their answers. But with an informal interview, you are merely having a conversation.

This conversation can happen over lunch. It can happen in the office. It can happen at a coffee shop. Most likely the event will occur in a comfortable setting set for conversation.

Does This Count As A True Interview

If you are being asked to have an informal interview that most likely means that you are one step ahead of all of the other candidates. While your informal interview is very important because it dictates how the other person is going to portray you to the rest of the team.

When you get finished with your informal interview, most likely you’ll be asked to have a formal interview. But it will be for the sake of the standard process. Though, you will be given a lot of flexibility and credibility in your formal interview after you’ve done well in your informal interview.

What Should I Bring With

Informal interviews should be taken much like a business meeting with a colleague would be taken. Wear professional clothing but be sure it’s comfortable. Bring with you a pen and paper just in case you need to take notes. For the most part, you want your presence to be casual. The point of this part of the process is for you to be comfortable to have a conversation, that’s it.

What Should I Wear (Attire)

Informal interviews are just like they sound, informal. But in any business setting, you want to dress in a way that makes you seem professional. And respectful. If you are curious as to what to wear, try to go with a business casual attire.

Remember To Thank Them By Email After

Even in an informal interview, it's a professional courtesy to thank someone for taking the time to sit down with you. Remember, that professional could have spent their time doing something else. If you aren't sure what type of thank you email you should send, be sure to read the full guide that we have.

The email can be simple, straightforward and thankful. That will go a long way.

Don't Be Led Off Guard

If the interviewer you are speaking with starts to turn the conversation more formal, be sure that you course correct them. For example, if they ask you about salary or give you an opportunity to get employed with the company right away, respond with something like, "I'll need some time to get back to you on that."

The reason for this is that you don't want this informal conversation to lead into a formal one. You were invited under the notion that this would be a conversation. And you don't want to be accidentally fooled or caught off guard answering a question that you weren't prepared to properly think through. All you have to do is say, "I wasn't prepared to answer that question, can I get back to you?" and you'll be fine.

How Can I Prepare

Preparing for your informal interview would be pretty similar to preparing for your formal one. But the key differences are that you might have more of a conversation related to industry news or company news, versus you answering questions like, “What is your leadership style?”

You want to be sure that you spend enough time to be able to speak with the person you are going to interview with much like they’d be able to speak to one of their own colleagues. That means having an up to date clear picture of all industry changes, company changes, company news, management information and more.

The key elements that you want to be sure you look up in advance of the meeting are:

  • Who the CEO is.
  • What the founding story is.
  • Any recent product, sales, value proposition changes the company has made.
  • Any recent company news.
  • Any recent industry news.
  • Any major outlook changes on the industry.

This should give you enough of a picture to be able to informally speak with someone as though you are well-informed on the industry. Because that’s what you’ll be doing. Talking about the category of business they’re in. Be sure that you have good answers to questions regarding why you are interested in that category of business, too. That may come up.

The conversation will never get personal but it will be casual. Meaning, you may wander into slightly personal territory. None of the questions will ever or should ever transition to an inappropriate conversation. Questions like your relationship status, for example. But when asked about why you’re passionate about the industry, you’ll need to be able to speak to that and elaborate.

Revel in the fact that you are part of an informal interview. This is a luxury. Go into the meeting with the hopes of impressing the other person with your positive attitude, enthusiastic personality and charm. That’s the best you could ask for.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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