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A casual interview should not be taken lightly. While you may be meeting the interviewer over coffee and told to ditch the suit and tie, it's important to realize that what you say and how you look matters. The interviewer has an agenda -- especially in a casual interview -- that has everything to do with finding out who you are personally and professionally. Because of this, it's crucial that your seemingly casual answers are nothing short of well thought out.
Put together an outfit that is business casual. Good examples include well-fitted slacks and a long-sleeved, button-down shirt that is tucked in. Add a leather belt and leather shoes to match. If the weather is chilly, consider a cardigan sweater. According to Ringo Nishioka, a 20-year human resources veteran and chief operating officer of Seattle-based BigDoor, it is never acceptable to wear sandals, sunglasses, a hat or lanyard. In addition, don't wear cologne or flashy jewelry.
Be on guard for casual questions that are meant to get a glimpse inside your personality. A question from the interviewer such as, "It must have been so difficult to get a job in your chosen field right out of college" should be answered in a positive light. A good response is, "Part of it was challenging, but it gave me more time to hone in on what aspect of the industry I truly wanted to work in." This allows you to seem professional and upbeat from all angles -- even when telling a joke, story or workplace antidote. The key is to answer questions optimistically while keeping the company's culture in mind.
Prepare for Personal Questions
Interviewers often ask candidates about a neutral subject before heading into the interview. Questions such as, "Have you read any good books lately?" or "Where do you like to vacation?" are meant to relax a candidate and see what kind of opinion you express. Take these seemingly casual questions as a good opportunity to reveal something interesting about yourself that could put your positive personality or good career decisions in the limelight. Before heading to the interview, think about everyday questions and figure out an advantageous way to use the answers.
Present Your Best Face
A casual interview never means your looks appear casual, so hair should be styled with minimum gel, tattoos covered up and piercings removed, advises Nishioka. "Facial hair must be also trimmed and clean," says Nishioka. "Your best bet is to be well shaven." It's also important to polish your shoes, remove excess lint from clothing and clean your fingernails. In addition, remember to use your manners, sit up straight and listen intently to the interviewer. It's easy to get distracted when meeting in public, so make sure your eyes and ears are focused on the conversation at hand.
- Virginia Tech: Business Casual Attire
- Ringo Nishioka; COO, BigDoor; Seattle, Washington
- CBS: What Not to Wear on a Job Interview
- 1StopResume.com: Casual Interview Discussions & Informal Questions
- Psychology Today: The Not-So-Harmless Interview Question
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.