Unusual Interview Settings

The vast majority of interviews will be in a similar setting.  An individual’s office or a conference room with one or two interviewers and the job seeker.  This is typical and what most job seekers expect when the go for an interview. 

It’s not the only format used, though.  Hiring managers have a wide range of motivations to deviate from the standard.  The first step is knowing what to expect.

Off-site Interviews:  When companies replace key managers, they often don’t want the employees to know of the change until they have found the replacement.  They do this to maintain stability in the organization during the change.  Because of this, early interviews are often conducted at an off-site location.  This can be a hotel lobby, a private meeting room, another companies office such as a law firm the company uses or a recruiting firm’s offices.  Most of these locations will provide a private setting conducive to an interview and shouldn’t differ from a traditional interview setting much.

Lunch Interviews: Some hiring managers will schedule interviews at a restaurant.  This could be a breakfast, lunch or dinner, although lunch is most common.  If you have a full day of interviews at a company, one of the interviews should be a lunch interview.  There are two big differences between a lunch interview and a standard interview.  First, there are constant interruptions when you need to order, get your food and have your plates cleared.  Second, there’s a couple extra phases to the interview – ordering and eating.  When you receive your menu, find a safe pick on the menu quickly.  Often the hiring manager will pick a location they frequent and not need to look at the menu long.  After ordering, the interview will be most similar to a standard interview, since there are few distractions for the next 5-15 minutes.  Once the food arrives, the interview will slow so you both can eat, but it won’t stop.  Prioritize the interview over the food.  Good preparation should help avoid problems caused by distractions.

Facility Tours: Often, a facility tour will be part of an interview.  In large facilities, such a manufacturing plants and distribution centers, it can take upwards of an hour to walk the facility. The tour becomes an interview.  In a production facility, don’t touch anything and be careful.  It’s an unfamiliar environment and you haven’t been through the safety training – don’t find out where the hazards are by getting hurt.  During the tour, pay attention to the environment but focus on the interviewer. 

Open Office Interviews: Some interviewers will choose a setting that has activity and traffic.  Either they meet with you in their office and keep the door open with people coming and going, or they meet with you in an open area, such as a bullpen.  This environment can be intimidating since you don’t know where the next distraction is going to come from or who is listening to the interview.  The key is to stay relaxed.  Don’t let the distractions throw you off your game. 

Airport Interviews:  When the hiring manager travels a great deal, they may propose a first meeting at an airport during a layover in the city where the job seeker lives.  Ideally, you will find a quite, low traffic area for the interview, but often, this endsup being in a noisy restaurant.  Usually, this will be the first face-to-face interview.  The goal of the hiring manager is to learn a little about the job seeker’s personality and assess a few key skills.

There are a lot of other settings for interviews.  Don’t let an unusual setting sabotage your next interview.  The key is to prepare thoroughly.  Have a clear idea of the message you want to deliver and the details from your background that you will discuss.  You don’t want to be thrown a curve that you can’t hit in an unusual setting with a lot of distractions.

Do you have any examples of unusual interview settings?  Please email me or post a comment with your experiences.