What to Expect in an Informal Interview

Dana Guterman
Updated: July 24, 2020

After reading this article. You’ll:

  • Be able to answer the question, “What is an informal interview?”
  • Know how to prepare for an informal interview.
  • Understand why more and more employers are holding informal interviews.

You know the drill for an in-person interview: Dress the part. Sit up straight. Don’t have anything stuck in your teeth. But just as more and more companies are doing away with jackets and ties, more employers are opting for informal interviews. In this article, we’ll look at the ins and outs of informal interviews, including what to bring and how to prepare.


What is an informal interview?

An informal interview is an interview that takes place in a more casual setting, rather than an office. Often, you’ll grab a coffee or have lunch with the interviewer, and the format will be less structured and more relaxed than a traditional interview. Another benefit of informal interviews? They’re typically less stressful—both for you and the interviewer. You can expect more of a dialog than a Q&A session.

Besides those key differences, an informal interview is much like any other interview. It’s a chance for both you and the interviewer to get to know one another. You get to see if you’re a good fit for an open role and if the role’s a good fit for you.

And one more thing: An informal interview is not an informational interview. That’s something entirely different. Informational interviews are networking and learning opportunities; they are not a part of the formal interview process. Informal interviews, however, are actual interviews. So, don’t take them lightly!


What do you wear to an informal interview?

It’s right there in the name: You can indeed go less formal for an informal interview. That being said, this is not an excuse to go out in sweats or PJs. This is still an interview, so you want to go smart-casual or business-casual rather than at-home casual.

Business casual might include nice pants, a button-up shirt, a sweater/cardigan or blazer, and closed-toe shoes. Women or women-identifying folks can wear a modest dress or skirt and shirt. Prints are fine. Nice sandals or peep-toe shoes are acceptable, too.

If you’re unsure, dress up. It’s always better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Just know that you can leave your tux or ballgown at home.


How do you prepare for an informal interview?

For the most part, you want to prepare for an informal interview in the same way you’d prepare for a regular interview. That includes:

  • Confirm the time, place, and with whom you’ll be meeting.
  • Review the job description if you’re meeting to discuss a particular role.
  • Research the company and interviewer.
  • Practice your responses to common interview questions.
  • Prepare at least 10 questions to ask the interviewer.
  • The night before, gather copies of your resume and work samples. You should also grab a pen and notebook.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Figure out the location in advance—and arrive 5–10 minutes early. If you’re going to a restaurant, you might want to review the menu in advance, too, so that you don’t make a last-minute decision to order the whole lobster. Stay away from messy foods!

The key difference between how to prepare for an informal interview and a regular one is that you should be ready to speak up more in an informal interview. Because it’s a more casual environment, it’s easier to go off on tangents or get distracted by the cute dog outside. You’ll need to be proactive to keep the conversation on course.

So, make sure that you’re taking the initiative to bring up your strengths and accomplishments throughout the interview. At the same time, be sure to ask the interviewer any questions you might have, as it’s less likely they’ll end the interview with the typical, “And do you have any questions for me?


What questions should you expect in an informal interview?

Questions during an informal interview are usually similar to those asked during a regular interview, but things are a bit more relaxed. Some interviewers ask fewer behavioral interview questions, preferring to engage in a back-and-forth conversation as they learn more about you.

You’re more likely to encounter an informal interview early on or at the very end of the interview process. If it’s early on, you can expect questions like, “Tell me about yourself” and “How would you describe yourself?” If it’s towards the end, the interviewer might be checking for your cultural fit and ironing out details before presenting an offer.


What should you expect after an informal interview?

After your informal interview, you need to follow up with a thank you note or email. You’ll want to reiterate your interest in the position, mention any memorable moments from the interview, and thank the interviewer. Be sure to click send within 24–48 hours of your interview.

If you do hear back, you may be asked into the office for a more formal interview, or you could get an offer. It totally depends on the company!