How to Handle Interviewing in a Public Place

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Employers sometimes schedule job interviews in a public place such as a starbucks coffee shop, restaurant, or outdoor arcade. It could be because they are hiring for a field position, they don’t have a local office, or out of convenience because they are en route somewhere. It might also be the most practical option if they don’t want their current employees to know that they’re hiring a new staff member.

How to Prepare

Confirm the exact location, including the cross streets or corner. There’s a Starbucks on nearly every shopping centre or street in Kuala Lumpur, and the same holds true for many other national and international chains. For example, confirm that you’re meeting at the XYZ coffee shop in Mid Valley, KL. Make sure you get the interviewer’s cell phone number so you can call or text them in case you’re delayed. Also be sure to ask how you will recognize the person you’re meeting with and let them know what you look like, or what you’ll be wearing.

Dress professionally, even if you are meeting at a fast-food restaurant. You might feel out of place in a suit and tie or dress and heels but you should always err on the side of being too dressed up as opposed to looking like you’re going to the movies or your local gym.

Prepare just as you would for an office interview. Research the company, have responses ready for typical interview questions, and have a list of questions to ask the interviewer. Bring a portfolio and pad and pen so you can take notes. Or, if you’re more comfortable using a mobile device, bring your laptop. Also, bring a few copies of your resume and references, if you have them.

Focus on the Interview and Interviewer

It may be noisy in a public place due to distractions such as noisy customers, piped-in music, and waitstaff coming and going. Try to focus on the interviewer as best you can. Keep the interview focused, as well, by staying on topic. Even if you order a light snack to go with your coffee or tea, don’t think about the food, think about what you need to say to make a good impression. Another common distraction is one that you might bring upon yourself, your cell phone. A ringing cell phone or pinging text message will distract you as well as the interviewer. Be sure to put your phone on mute before you sit down to the interview

Watch Your Manners

Be careful what you order from the menu. If you’re having a meal choose something simple and easy to eat, and never order the most expensive item on the menu. Avoid messy food like spaghetti or hard-to-eat food like a hot panini made with crusty bread. Don’t order anything to go (even a cup of coffee) and put it on the interviewer’s tab, even if the interviewer orders something to go. Don’t tend to your hygiene at the table. Excuse yourself and retire to the men’s room or ladies’ room to pick your teeth, brush your hair, or freshen your makeup.

Following Up

Make sure you follow-up with a thank you note (just like you would have if you interviewed for the position in a corporate office), and check on the status of your candidacy by phone or email.

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