What to do when a company invites you in for a “chat”?

You get the call, “hi there we got your cv, we’d love you to pop in for a chat, how about tomorrow at 5pm?” You hastily agree, put the phone down and then think, “what exactly have I agreed to?”, “what is popping in for a chat?” Well let me give you a few hints and tips mixed with some do’s and don’ts that should make it clearer.

The chat can be for a specific job or it can be to suss out your potential for future roles. Usually the person on the phone would clarify this but if they don’t ask them, “is this in regards to the researcher job I applied for?” If it’s not for any available job still take it very seriously. Things can change in a heartbeat and how you come across can mean the difference between, let’s bring them in for that role, to hell no they don’t want to work here.

These chats can take place in offices or sometimes in busy coffee shops. If that’s the case then you have the panic of “do I pay” “do they pay” “do we go Dutch”! Relax it’s not a date, but if there is that pay confusion (ideally the interviewer should pay) and no one has mentioned anything then offer to pay. People remember that stuff. Personally in a coffee shop as well when meeting an employer i would avoid ordering food, nothing worse than an almond croissant slowly disintegrating over your smartest outfit. As you casually brush off crumbs trying not to talk and chew it can look sloppy so after the chat grab a treat and pig out then.

What is the chat? Well basically it’s masquerading as an informal interview, a just getting to know you twenty minutes. Don’t be fooled it’s an interview, those soft open ended questions over a latte are really to see what you are made off not to just have a chat about your weekend. If asked about your weekend, keep it friendly and charming avoid saying you got so drunk and definitely avoid details of Saturday night love conquests. No matter how much the interviewer is making you believe they are your friend they are not, so avoid revealing too much personal stuff.

Know the company, talk about their recent work, what you’ve watched, if they’ve won any awards. I know this can sound like sucking up but actually what it translates as is you’ve done your research and you are passionate about working there. Effortlessly weave in your skills to the conversation and how your recent work fits in well with the company, their plans and this role. Before you go to a chat think about five things that you want to get across, maybe that’s achievements, skills or passion for the output and make sure you mention them. Do it in a natural way, rather than what some people do which is bombard you with information before you’ve barely managed to say hello.

Take your cv along with you, or recent examples of your work to show them. Make sure it’s all relevant as this can make you look super keen which is definitely a good thing. Ask about next stages if it’s about a particular job, don’t be afraid to do this. Often and I’ve done it, I’ve left a chat and thought “is that it?” Do I have three more interviews in the process, or none? Get that clarity. Be honest with the employer as well, if you’ve got lots of interviews then say it. Not in a bragging way “check me out everyone wants to hire me” more in a “I’m interviewing at the moment and I’m really keen for the opportunity here, when will I hear back about the job?” That’s really fair enough, direct and honest no one should have a problem with that.

Know where you are meeting for the chat, know how to get there and get there a bit early. You should be the first to arrive. Take it seriously it can just be a ten minute chat but think about the impression you want to leave them with. Be friendly and charming but not over familiar. Eye contact and smiling are important but don’t be fake and don’t stare and grin as if you are runner up in a beauty pageant. Know who you are meeting and what their role is and what they do. If they’ve worked on things you’ve seen then mention it. Again fine line though don’t stalk them on social media and mention casually information about their fiancée or their Saturday night out. Keep it professional.

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