Steering the Informal Interview
The informal interview has its advantages and its drawbacks for both the interviewer and the interviewee. In this style of interviewing, the discussion takes the shape of a general dialogue with no specific planned direction, and usually no prepared questions. The employer prefers to let the conversation flow in its natural direction.
There are several possible reasons an employer may take the informal interview approach:
On the "pros" side, a friendly, conversational approach may take some of the stress off for the interviewee.
On the "cons" side, the burden is left entirely on the job seeker to find or create opportunities to plant pertinent information into the discussion, and make an impression.
This won't be easy. It's difficult to bring focus to your strengths and skills without the benefit of specific questions to answer.
But there are a few things you can do to make the best of the informal interview, and succeed at leaving your mark:
Take the lead. If the interviewer isn’t asking any question, you do the asking. Bring up specific questions about the job and the responsibilities, then link the answers back to your own experiences.
Make reference to things the employer has said, and segue to a pertinent point. Say things like “to touch on what you were saying…” or “you bring up a good point…” followed up with an example of a related achievement you want to convey.
Assert yourself. Don’t wait to see where the interviewer goes next. After 15 or twenty minutes of casual dialogue, he's more likely to pull out photos of his kids than start asking serious questions. Politely impose your agenda by stating things you really want him to know about you.
Do his work for him. His interview style is probably indicative of his overall management style too, so extensive comprehensive training is not likely to form part of the initial job orientation. Demonstrate that you have done your homework and that you are a candidate who will require little in the way of training. You will make a strong impression by showing how much you already know about the industry, the company, and the role.
As with any other style of interview, your preparation will dictate your success. Do your homework, ask questions, and remain professional, and you should more than succeed at making a lasting impression.