I’m meeting my interviewer at a coffee shop — how does this work?

A reader writes:

I have what I think is going to be an amazing opportunity with a just starting up private school. I am super excited about the potential for this position. I have been to many standard interviews, both at offices and at schools. I know the drill for those. This interview, however, is going to be at a coffee shop because they don’t yet have a location.

How does this work? I haven’t actually met any of the people in real life before. I’m assuming that I shouldn’t email them saying that I will be the one wearing the pink sweater with a blue travel mug on the table. Is there some kind of standard protocol for meeting unknown people professionally in a public setting? (Should I arrive extra early to make sure we get a table for example?)

Also, does a coffee shop interview change what I should wear? I generally wear a nice woman’s pant suit to interviews. But I am wondering if that would make me overdressed for the situation.

I am ridiculously excited about this prospect and want to come across as professional and competent. I know that my portfolio will speak for itself, but I want to make sure that I don’t make any mistakes with the other stuff.

If you can, look up your interviewers on LinkedIn or elsewhere beforehand and see if you can find photos of them. That will help you spot them. But it’s also perfectly appropriate to say, “I’ll be the woman in the grey suit with the large blue travel mug.”

And speaking of suits: Yes, you should wear one. The fact that the meeting is in a coffee shop doesn’t change that. You still want to present yourself at your most polished and professional.

It’s also smart to arrive a little early, scope out the space, and pick a spot to sit where you’ll be comfortable — for instance, maybe at a table toward the back where it’s quieter, or a table with chairs rather than getting stuck sitting on a deep couch where you won’t be able to sit up straight. This way, you can also get your drink beforehand and avoid the awkward “who pays” moment (but if that happens, the employer should always pay).

However, if you show up early and your interviewer is already there, she may ask if she can get you something to drink. Say yes, and give her a simple order — “I’d love a latte, thank you” is fine; “a no-fat no foam two Splenda peppermint mocha with light ice” is not.

Other things to keep in mind: Don’t wear lipstick that’s going to leave a noticeable red stain on your cup. Don’t order a drink that’s going to leave you with a foam mustache. Be polite to people working there. Don’t leave trash on the table when you leave.

What other tips do people have for coffee shop interviews?

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. Sascha*

    If they ask you if you want food as well, I would decline. Adding food to the mix can be troublesome. Just tell them you just had a snack or lunch or whatever.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      One exception: if the interviewer is eating, and it’s not just a muffin, I’d get something too. If the interviewer is clearly having lunch, you can (and maybe should) eat as well so it’s not awkward. This probably won’t happen in a Starbucks, but a lot of coffee shops are really coffee-and-lunch places.

      1. Another Anon*

        I once had an interview at a Denny’s restaurant. I thought it was an odd location, but they chose it so whatever. I showed up a little early, got us a table, and then just got a coffee while I waited for them because I assumed that I would take my food cues from the interviewer. The guy shows up and then NEVER orders anything, just water. I felt so guilty for taking up a table and wasting everyone’s time at the restaurant that I stayed behind and had a quick lunch and left a nice tip for the 2 hours we took up the table. I did get the freelance gig, and they paid me well. But it was still one of the oddest experiences I have ever had.

        1. KH*

          That’s very odd. Perhaps the employer wasn’t reimbursing the employee for Denny’s expenses. Very rude of the employer / interviewer to use a business for something like that.

  2. Sassy Intern*

    I actually had an interview in a coffee shop recently! Granted, I knew the people who were interviewing me already. My advice? Maybe scope out the place a couple of days before you meet. Pick a time (if possible) when it’ll be the most empty. Think 2:00 or 2:30 ish. If the time is already decided absolutely try to get there early to find a table. If it’s dirty, clean it off.

    And, if possible ask as many questions as you can about the space you’ll be working in, and the type of people you’ll be working with. A lot of that information you can usually scope out for yourself but since there’s no actual space it’s pretty reasonable that you’ll have some questions about where you’ll be working.

    1. KH*

      I recently was job searching and had many network meetings and one ‘feeler’ interview/discussion. More than once there were no open tables when I arrived.

      Coffee shops can be busy, especially around the turn of the hour when people meet for appointments or whatnot. Absolutely arrive early, if for nothing else but to reserve a decent table so that’s not a distraction at your meeting start time.

      I found myself falling into the routine of finding an open table or a table likely to open up soon. If a better table opened up, I’d quickly scoot over and steal that one. There’s nothing worse than trying to make a good impression when both you and your meeting partner/interviewer are uncomfortable, or even worse, there’s no table.

      And yes, grab a drink when you get there. Many times my interviewer/meeting partner didn’t even want something to drink, and waiting in line for the drink to be made was just a waste of valuable time or awkward social dynamics where one person sits at and reserves the table while the other gets the drink(s).

  3. PEBCAK*

    I’d avoid sticking around the coffee shop afterwards, like “oh, I’m just gonna move over to this other table and read my book.” You could inadvertently be creating an awkward situation if they have other interviews that day.

    1. Jane*

      I agree with this. I have been hanging out at Starbucks and saw employers doing round after round of interviews and you don’t want to make things awkward for both yourself and them!

    2. oh I flew through the sky my convictions could not lie*

      You could inadvertently be creating an awkward situation if they have other interviews that day.

      Or – if you know you just totally bombed the interview, you could possibly have a lot of fun coming up with imaginative ways to torpedo those other interviews …

      I know I’m a bad person for thinking of this.

  4. a ninny mouse*

    I had one and it was horrible. We were on the outdoor patio and the lady was distracted by what was going on around us. The coffee shop was near some train tracks and a fire station. I think the lady was just a bad interviewer, and would have done poorly at any location.

  5. S*

    I’ve been on the other side of the table–generally, I am the one arriving earlier, but I’ve had instances where interviewees arrive before I do and are all settled and ready to go. I don’t have a preference either way, but definitely give your interviewer a quick description of what you’re wearing! I’ve circled a shop multiple times before, looking for the right person, while they were checking their phones the whole time wondering where I was. I didn’t notice them earlier because their heads were down. If you can, please sit somewhere that has a good sightline to the shop entrance. Makes things so much easier.

    That being said, treat this just like you would any other interview. Be polished, be professional, treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect, including the other customers, baristas, and the busboys.

    1. catsAreCool*

      “treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect, including the other customers, baristas, and the busboys.” Always do this, even if no one is watching. There’s no reason not to be courteous, and plenty of reasons not to be rude to people, even if you don’t know them. Especially people who handle your food, of course.

      1. brian35242*

        I’ve interviewed in a coffee shop before, as the employer. I arrived way early just so I could see how the interviewee interacted with the coffee shop staff.

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      This is one situation where “I’ll be the woman with bright purple hair” is definitely a plus. Makes it easy everywhere but the SF Bay Area or Berlin for folks to narrow it down.

  6. AllieJ0516*

    Be aware of your surroundings, too – the last coffee shop interview that I had went well, we finished right on time, and I stood up to shake hands, thank and say goodbye to my interviewers. After a stop in the ladies’ room, I got out to my car which was parked right out the window from where we’d been sitting, and to my surprise, they were shaking hands and motioning to sit down to the woman in the green sweater who’d been sitting two tables away from us during MY entire interview! I didn’t pursue that job, because it was starting about 3 mos too late for me, but who knows what that candidate overheard…

    1. tab*

      Yeah, the whole thing just sounds so unprofessional. If someone is really serious avout their interviews, they’ll find somewhere better to do them. You can rent office space or a conference room at any number of places. (Libraries or community foundations often have them for free.) There are just so many unknown factors in a coffee shop. I would be really wary of any employer who wanted to interview me in one. Unless of course I was applying to work in a coffee shop.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it really depends on the context. There are plenty of fields where this isn’t unusual as long as there’s an explanation for it (as there is in the OP’s case). I wouldn’t dismiss an employer over this if they otherwise seemed good.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I once had a coffee shop interview to replace an employee who hadn’t worked out. It wasn’t a secret—the current person knew he was on his way out, and everyone was trying to transition smoothly—but the boss felt that doing the initial interviews off-site would cut down on awkwardness. I thought it was pretty classy of the employer.

        2. LuvzAlaugh*

          Definately not weird at all. I have been on interviews outside of an office setting and at a coffee house for reasons such as the position was being filled confidentially and interviews could not be held onsite to reasons such as depending on the nature of the work, the business didn’t allow people on the property who had not yet had a security clearance.

          1. Julia*

            We quite often interview at a coffee shop because coming on to our propery requires a background check. There’s one very close and it works for us!

            1. Zillah*

              Legally, no… But practically? I can certainly see that. Even if someone were to walk in and see you, there’d be no way to know from a distance that you weren’t just meeting a friend, and that’s not necessarily super likely.

        3. Calla*

          I’ve scheduled coffee shop interviews for my boss. It’s not super common, but she’s wfh on certain days, and she lives over an hour away from our office. If someone really wants an interview on the particular day of the week she’s work from home (which I make them aware of), she’s not traveling to the office for that. And it often works out well too because more than once the interviewee doesn’t live right next door to our office either, so they just meet somewhere in-between their homes.

      2. TOC*

        Sure, but coffee shops are nearly everywhere. There’s likely to be one convenient to both the interviewer and the candidate, they don’t require the hiring manager to make a reservation elsewhere, and it’s usually easy to find both the building itself and the meeting spot within it.

        Plus libraries, etc. tend to have large meeting rooms; a huge empty room for 75 people feels pretty awkward for a two-person meeting. Many places only offer their meeting space for free only to nonprofits/community groups, not corporations.

        I’m not saying a coffee shop is perfect, but there are times when they really are the best option.

        1. simonthegrey*

          When I interviewed for my adjunct teaching job, we met at a coffee shop. It was attached to the bookstore where I worked full-time, and the college itself was an hour away. Of course, I thought it was going to be an actual interview; what happened was that the dean with whom I was interviewing showed up with the course description and textbooks, talked to me about my resume for five minutes, and then explained the subject I would be teaching and asked for questions.

        2. danr*

          I’ve been at the library when interviews are going on. Not in a private room, but at the next table. It can be awkward when voices aren’t kept low.

      3. Lola*

        I agree with you, tab. A food service location is full of distractions one wants to avoid when seriously evaluating a prospective employee/employer. Additionally, it lacks privacy for discussing potentially sensitive business concerns — or even simply for being seen interviewing. I wouldn’t dismiss an employer solely based on a coffee shop interview, but it would make me wary of how buttoned up they are in their business practices.

        1. Rayner*

          It can be chaos but choosing times carefully can take care of that, and often coffee shops are in a more central location if the office is far out of town.

          And I don’t know about you but the people who tend interview in coffee shops also tend not be discussing business which is totally and utterly private and needs to be kept top secret. I wouldn’t recommend doing a final round interview in a a coffee shop or one for say, a lawyer, but if you were just interviewing as a lower level person or as a freelancer, I would totally go for it.

          1. Cat*

            Lawyers don’t discuss confidential information with people they haven’t hired yet anyway. Or at least they shouldn’t.

      4. MT*

        I had my last interview at a Mexican restaurant. Later found out, my interviewer wanted an excuse to get a free lunch. They also placed to go orders for 10 other people in the office.

      5. Revanche*

        Yeah, like the OP, we’ve had to conduct interviews like that because we didn’t have a home office. It was otherwise (or actually *because of* not having a home office) a pretty awesome job.

      6. Kacie*

        Just to clarify, libraries rent room for free to non-profit organizations, others have to pay. Also be aware that all meetings held in library meeting rooms are considered public meetings and anyone can attend. Not the place for a private interview. Or a baby shower, retirement party, etc. (it’s all be requested before :/).

        1. Arjay*

          Our library has small rooms that you can reserve for group work. The intention may be primarily for academic work, but there aren’t any restrictions for booking an available room.

      7. Lisbonslady*

        I have to agree with this. I did try to remain open minded once when I was asked to interview for an office job at a coffee shop an hour away from me, two hours from the job location but the interviewer had made it seem like he traveled from office to office and would be in the area so it worked for him. I later found out it was near his home and he rarely went to the office I was applying to because it was 2 hours away. I didn’t stay at that job, too much dysfunction and I should have gone with my gut when he asked to meet at the coffee shop without a good reason… he was actually let go a few months later.

    2. BRR*

      Well that speaks more about the other candidate. The usual advice of arrive early and sit in a coffee shop doesn’t apply here.

      1. Elfie*

        For my current job, my first interview was in a pub! Not so strange, though, as I work in Corporate for a pub and restaurant company (and it was one of our own, not a competitor – now that would have been weird!)

  7. Jake*

    I hold all interviews in a hotel lobby because we work on a secure military base. I expect the exact same decorum as I would in my office. I want professional dress, I want the hotel staff treated politely, and I want everybody to leave the area just as clean and tidy as it was when we arrived.

    I don’t want you to come more than 5 minutes early. I don’t mind a heads up about what you look like, but i don’t want to worry about that for more than a single email or 30 seconds on the phone at the end of a call regarding something else. Focusing more than that on it has no appreciable gains for either of us, yet it risks making you look nervous, which isn’t a red flag on its own, but it may come up if I see other evidence of a nervous disposition.

      1. TOC*

        Whoa, that was the harsh and unfriendly kind of comment not welcome here on AAM. Jake had a great comment. Why attack him over something he can’t control?

        1. Tabby*

          Because as a job candidate taking an interview seriously, I would be really pissed off at the unprofessionalism of having to be interviewed in public. That would give me real concerns about the employer. It’s rude.

          1. Jake*

            Then I’m screening for people that are willing to deal with being in public (common for the role I hire). I didn’t realize it, but kudos to me because anybody that is going to be pissed about that isn’t going to fit in with the requirement of flexibility that comes with working on a military base.

            I assure you, I’m taking that interview more seriously than plenty of interviews that hold interviews in their office.

              1. De Minimis*

                For me it depends on the hotel, a lot of them do have good quiet areas to meet in. I’ve also had interviews locally where they used a hotel’s conference room to conduct the interviews.

                I’ve only had one interview at a Starbucks, the reason given was that the interviewer had too many distractions and interruptions at the office. But it still gave a somewhat unprofessional vibe and I was a little relieved when it ended up not working out [though the reasoning seemed somewhat bogus–but that’s another story for another time.]

      2. OhNo*

        Really? It seems pretty sensible to me – especially if you work in a location that you simply can’t take potential employees to, which it sounds like would be the case here. And hotels usually appear more formal than a coffee shop, so you don’t run the risk of coming off unprofessional.

        1. Anony-moose*

          I’ve had plenty of meetings in hotel lobbies and I can’t imagine an interview would be different. They’re often convenient for people, have readily available parking, and it’s easy to either find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or move to a coffee shop if there is one available. I agree it’s often a sensible choice!

          1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

            I don’t believe hotel lobbies are the same sort of public place as coffee shops–they’re not intended for any joe off the street to drive to, do business in the lobby, and leave without being a guest.

            1. Anonymous Ninja*

              Most hotel lobbies these days have a coffee shop or restaurant attached and tables set up to allow for eating and drinking, similar to coffee shops. Besides, for all we know, the candidates are staying at the hotel.

            2. ReanaZ*

              Perhaps some people are thinking “crappy armchairs in front of the check-in desk at the holiday inn” and Jake means “a table in the lobby area, such as where breakfast is served or adjacent to the hotel bar”? I have had interviews in hotel lobbies, and it wasn’t weird at all. fairly quiet public space, less bustle than a coffee shop, but more okay to talk than a library.

              (I think the interviewer was actually staying at the hotel, although if there is a restaurant or bar, I think it’s totally fine for someone not staying there to conduct business there.)

            3. Short and Stout*

              I have to be in hotels for business so often — the last thing most businesses want to do is scare off anyone business-related (and have wonderful lobbies and sometimes bar services etc. right there in the lounge expressly for business). And most airport locations actually expect the dash-and-fly pop-in business person.

            4. Jake*

              … we’ve stayed there and given them 10s of thousands of dollars in business… I’m on a first name basis with every single staff member. If they have a problem with it, they can feel free to tell me.

            5. anon4this*

              Work in an upscale hotel. Clients super regularly rent out conference rooms for interviews. Yes, interviewing people in the lobby would be irritating and weird/cheap. We have a restaurant though– that would make more sense.

            6. anon4this*

              Work in an upscale hotel. Clients super regularly rent out conference rooms for interviews. Yes, interviewing people in the lobby would be irritating and weird/cheap. We have a restaurant though– that would make more sense.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not sure I totally understand this comment, but it’s not really in keeping with the way we discuss things here. Maybe you could (civilly) explain why you object to hotel lobby interviews (which aren’t exactly uncommon)?

      4. periwinkle*

        Some hotels in the DC area (and presumably elsewhere) intentionally make their lobbies attractive for those needing a little business space. It’s a safe and comfortable place for meetings or telework. I’d much rather have a job interview in a fairly quiet Hilton lobby than in a crowded Starbucks with the Frappuccino machines screeching in the background and the after-school teen crowd screeching in the foreground (that was an awful interview).

        When you have to speak more loudly to be heard over that racket, it’s hard to talk about anything confidential. I overheard a performance review meeting in a Starbucks, yikes. At least I was discreet enough not to walk by and congratulate the employee on her new title and new salary…

        1. Valar M.*

          Hotels don’t frown on this? I can understand if you’re staying there, or drinking/eating at a restaurant or cafe in the hotel – but having unrelated business conducted in the middle of the lobby? I would never have thought of that as an option if I wasn’t already staying there.

          I can appreciate that depending on the time of day hotel lobbies could be quieter, but they can be just as noisy when a huge group of kids/tour groups come in, or you’re within earshot of some of the common use areas.

          1. Rayner*

            When I was in Finland, a couple of times I stayed in hotels with huge lobbies – with plenty of places to sit down and conduct business. The only requirement they had was that you informed the staff at the front desk and that perhaps, you could avail yourself of the coffee shop at the other end of the hall if you required refreshments, instead of bringing your own.

            I was pleasantly amused by the ‘avail yourself’ comment, NGL.

            These were, I add, not your basic cheap touristy holidays. They were pretty darn expensive, and classy looking but very handy for access to the train station and directly on the line from the airport. If you were travelling to the interview it could be easier to meet in Helsinki in the hotel lobby than to travel to one of the smaller towns immediately outside to go to their office.

          2. Short and Stout*

            I was just saying above that most hotels I have had to business in (a lot — and, actually, mostly in the D.C. area) are so business-oriented that I can’t imagine going to a Starbucks instead. I mean, really, that’s where a huge percentage of business is done, practically, everything from conferences to business meetings etc.

            1. De Minimis*

              Yeah I’d think many hotels would be happy to provide a venue just to develop goodwill with an employer.

          3. Phyllis*

            Well, a couple of things. If you are wanting to conduct an interview in a hotel lobby (especially if you’re not a guest) ask permission at the front desk. Make sure it’s not at their busy times. Most hotels that’s 11:00-12:00 (check-out) and 2:00-4:00 (check-in.) Most hotels/motels that don’t have a restaurant/coffee shop usually offer a complimentary breakfast and have a dining area that is not used after breakfast hours. That’s a perfect place to have an interview. I had one there, and the front desk person brought us bottled water and cereal bars to snack on. Totally not asked for or expected, but appreciated!!

      5. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I had an interview in a hotel lobby once for a freelance gig with a company that was just launching in my area and they didn’t have any office space yet. Most of the interviews were to be in a conference room at the hotel, but I couldn’t come at those times. They were kind enough to meet me early, but that meant the conference room wasn’t ready yet. I’ve had that gig for 6 seasons now.

    1. Anonymous Ninja*

      I had an interview at a coffee shop. The employer was a contractor working on client location and did not have access to use the client’s conference rooms, so we met at the coffee shop in the building lobby.

    2. oh I flew through the sky my convictions could not lie*

      I can see advantages to holding an interview in a hotel lobby. Although I’m visualizing this as something rather nicer than a Days Inn.

      Regardless of the location: hotel lobby, coffee shop, lunch place – it’s important to remember that it’s not about coffee or lunch. To put it another way, one thing not to do is to make a big production out of what you decide to drink or eat.

      If you’re meeting at a coffee shop, it’s a good idea to order something while you wait. If you wait for the interviewer to show up, then the entire order something / wait for it / pick it up process can be awkward. And find a table that is quiet and as far away from other people as is possible.

      If you’re there waiting, stand up to greet the interviewer when they arrive. This is also a good opportunity to move to a better location if one has opened up, ie, “I was just about to move over there, it seems a bit more private.”

      Having said that, I think it’s a good idea to “mirror” your interviewer: if’ they’re getting a coffee and you don’t have one, then graciously accept their offer to buy one for you. Same with a muffin or lunch. You don’t actually have to drink it or eat it.

      The issue I’ve often had with meeting at a coffee shop or wherever is the ambient noise level. This is arguably on the interviewer (and I’ll bet that when Jake interviews in a hotel lobby, he has one or more locations he knows he can rely upon to be quiet and just generally have the necessary atmosphere for a business-like discussion). If the coffee shop is too loud – I can’t speak for everyone, but I would probably say (or shout) “I can’t hear you very well in here – can we go outside?” Whether or not anyone thinks this is a good idea, I don’t know. But if the interviewer didn’t bring it up, I’d probably hoist a red flag.

      And yeah, in interviewing, as in dating and life in general, be nice to the wait-staff. Because it really is true that you can judge the nature of a person by how they treat waiters and waitresses and maids etc. And a good interviewer is going to watch for that.

      One last thing: if you’re meeting in a coffee shop and for some reason you’ll be showing something off on your computer or iPad, make sure you get there early so you can get a reliable network connection going and give your spiel a test run. This might not come up too often in interviews, but if it does: don’t get caught unprepared.

      1. the gold digger*

        be nice to the wait-staff

        On our first date, which my husband maintains to this day that he did not know was a date, when he did not pay for my lunch, which bugged me because in The South The Man Pays, I got over my annoyance when I saw Primo leave a really nice tip. He saw me looking and said, “It’s just a few dollars to me but it makes a big difference to the person doing this job.”

        And he was also very polite to the waitress. (Unlike his dad, who once told a waiter who brought me a meal that included broccoli casserole that the broccoli casserole didn’t look as disgusting as he thought it would. Ah Sly. The gift who keeps giving.)

  8. Betty (the other Betty)*

    I meet people in coffee shops often, and I’ve discovered that it surprisingly easy to pick out the person I am looking for. If I arrive second, they are the person watching the door. If I arrive first, they are the person who pauses at the door to look around. (And if I get it wrong or can’t tell, it’s ok to ask “Are you Jane?”)

    Make sure you have the interviewer’s cell phone number or direct email, just in case you will be late arriving.

    I like to get there first to settle in, take off my coat, pull out a notebook and pen, and get a drink (because it’s polite to the coffee shop to pay for something).

    Good luck!

    (And Alison, FYI: loud autoplay Geico ad on the site.)

    1. City Planner*

      Totally seconding this – I’ve held numerous meetings at coffee shops where I’m meeting someone I don’t know, and it’s surprisingly easy to figure it out. Usually, myself and the person I’m meeting are the only two people looking around for another stranger. I’ve probably done this 20+ times and only once have I asked “are you Percival?” and found that I guessed wrong.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On the auto-play sound ads, I unfortunately can’t do much without the URL. If you can tell me the URL of where it clicks through to, I can get it removed.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      I’ve met several people at coffee shops for various professional meetings and neither of us has explained what we look like. As you said, I’ve never had trouble picking them out. It’s always the guy/girl looking around for someone. :P

  9. Persephone Mulberry*

    Totally agree on scoping out the location ahead of time – particularly regarding parking. There’s nothing like thinking you’re 15 minutes early and then spending 20 minutes circling or parking three blocks away and hoofing it.

    (I missed an AAM meetup once because I gave up on trying to find a parking spot. :( )

  10. Meg Danger*

    Peppermint tea :)
    It is a simple and inexpensive order, and you won’t need to think about coffee breath.

    1. Stephanie*

      Or a sudden trip to the restroom.

      “Yes, I’m interested in Teapot Inc’s Latin American strate…excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom right this moment.”

  11. Amy*

    I went to a Mexican restaurant interview once, and got the job. I discovered later that my interviewer is always super busy and he held the interview there because it was his lunch. At the time I worried that he was hiding something from me (which may have been, too). I treated it like a normal interview, didn’t eat much, and didn’t get too relaxed. I’d advise the OP writer to do the same.

  12. TOC*

    Lots of great advice here!

    I’d add that it’s easy to nervously fiddle with the stir stick, shred a napkin, etc. without realizing it. I do this all the time when socializing in coffee shops–somehow there are just so many “props” to fiddle with. Resist this distracting and messy habit!

    1. OhNo*

      Good point! Also, even though you’ll have a drink, resist the urge to sip from it constantly, especially before/after every question. It has the same tendency to make you look really nervous, or like you’re stalling.

      1. Cheryl*

        This CAN be a great stalling technique if used selectively. I agree not every question, but sometimes you have that one you just need a second to think through….. :)

  13. BRR*

    What if you arrive first, do you get something?

    If you arrive second and your interviewer is already drinking something and doesn’t offer to get you something, do you go get something? And if they do offer do you need to get something?

    1. Sassy Intern*

      >What if you arrive first, do you get something?

      I would wait for the interviewer, personally.

      >If you arrive second and your interviewer is already drinking something and doesn’t offer to get you something, do you go get something? And if they do offer do you need to get something?

      I would say that unless they offer something I wouldn’t ask or anything and if they do offer, it’s fine to decline.

    2. TOC*

      I wouldn’t go get something if I arrive and my interviewer is ready to start the meeting (and doesn’t offer me a drink). I don’t want to make them sit there while I go wait to order and receive my beverage; though I might make an exception if I arrive several minutes early and they just happen to beat me there. If sitting in a coffee shop without buying something makes you feel like a freeloader (as it does me), you can always get a to-go beverage/snack on your way out.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      What if you arrive first, do you get something?

      Yes, get a drink. I can’t explain why, but you will look more at ease if you have a coffee/tea/whatever in front of you.

      If you really don’t want a drink, though, it’s fine not to get one. No one will hold that against you.

      1. Anon for this*

        I was a manager at Nordstrom and I loved to meet prospective salespeople at the store’s espresso bar for interviews. It was a casual, comfortable place and I think it gave them an idea of our culture. I always bought them a latte or whatever.

    4. Lefty*

      Either way, I think I would get a bottle water. If you get there first, you’ve made a purchase (entitling you to a table) and it doesn’t look overly involved. If you get there last and the interviewer offers you something, water is simple, neat and hard to spill. It gives you something to sip on during the interview that’s not distracting (like slurping or blowing on coffee or tea) and you eliminate the risk of dripping coffee on your interview clothes, resume, etc…

      If worse comes to worse and you spill it, it’s just water. Also, no coffee or tea breath.

    5. Sunflower*

      If you arrive first, I would get something.

      If the employer doesn’t offer, I wouldn’t get something but I’d find it to be kind of odd that they wouldn’t- I just can’t see an interviewer meeting at a coffee shop and not at least asking if you want to get something? If they do offer, yes get something.

    6. Revanche*

      As the interviewer in the past, I’ve always had candidates arrive early and order something. I didn’t care about whether or not they ordered themselves a drink, but it was a little disruptive when they didn’t arrive early enough to get their order well in advance, and had to keep listening for their order to come up when we’d started the interview. So that’s something to consider.

      I never offered to get them something because they’d all already gotten their own, and I just had my water because I’m a megaklutz and coffee doesn’t look great on me ;)

      1. oh I flew through the sky my convictions could not lie*

        it was a little disruptive when they didn’t arrive early enough to get their order well in advance, and had to keep listening for their order to come up when we’d started the interview.

        I’d like to opine that – unless interviewing at a coffee shop was a critical job skill – the interviewee shouldn’t be held accountable for this.

        I think that a big down-side to interviewing at a coffeeshop is that it can make the interviewer look really bad if the chosen location is really crowded or noisy or otherwise not conducive to an interview.

        1. Revanche*

          Not to worry, the candidates weren’t dinged for this. It’s just an observation and a thing to consider should you be a candidate who wants to order a drink when you arrive. Maybe give yourself a bit more time so it doesn’t affect you. For example, I could see that being in that position of having to pay less attention to the conversation due to listening for the drink could make a nervous candidate more nervous and fumble a bit.
          As I said, though, it didn’t really bother me.

    7. Rayner*

      I’d get something if they offer to – just a bottle of water if you really don’t know what you’re ordering, or if you normally drink a super complicated one like AAM’s example. Likewise, if I arrived first, I’d get something just to give me something to do.

      Same if they’re already in there – I’d go and introduce myself, and wait to see what they suggested. Most people would say either, “Do you want go get yourself something?” or “Do you want to get straight on?”. Follow their lead. You can always pick something up afterwards.

      The one thing I’d avoid at that point though is if the queue is horrendous – the last thing you want to do is keep your interviewing waiting for ten minutes while you queue for a coffee.

  14. A Teacher*

    I’ve only sat in on an interview at one with a former employer, but from what I’ve seen: treat it like any other interview, be polite to the store employees, clean up your mess, and don’t be afraid to decline if you don’t actually like coffee (or tea). My previous boss LOVED coffee and another supervisor liked tea. When I had to sit in on an interview they were surprised to realize that not everyone likes tea or coffee. Luckily, most coffee shops offer hot chocolate or hot apple cider, both are simple to request, and as a non coffee/tea drinker it was fine.

  15. telecommuter*

    Is that lipstick thing really a thing? I prefer not to leave marks on my cups too, but I would never hold it against somebody, especially since wearing makeup is often part of the “look professional and polished” package and how are you supposed to drink anything without leaving any lipstick marks? (I’ve tried to avoid making marks and have had embarrassing spills — I’d rather leave a mark than look like I don’t even know how to drink a beverage properly.) This seems like a crazy catch-22.

    1. Samantha*

      That’s what I was thinking. Is leaving a lip print on a disposable cup some sort of faux pas I’m not aware of? I don’t think I’d even notice if someone I was interviewing did that, and if I did, I can’t imagine a reason for having a negative reaction to it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s fine if you discreetly wipe it off the cup. But a cup sitting there with a big red lipstick mark on it during the conversation? I think it goes against the polished image you want to present.

      1. telecommuter*

        See, I would find it more off-putting to see someone wiping their cup after every sip. Now, I’m not saying that big lipstick stains are *attractive* — I would try to minimize them –but it also seems kind of nitpicky and pet-peeve-y, rather than something I’d find actively *wrong* about an interview experience.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think it requires constant wiping though. You just want to make sure there’s not a huge gross mark there. As Turanga says below, there are ways to minimize it from the start.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        It does look tacky, and somehow unhygienic to me.

        I was a child in the 50’s, and women’s lipstick was dark, matte, and left stains everywhere. But it was the “look” of a chic, modern woman of that day.

      3. Artemesia*

        I have been wearing lipstick for years that you paint on, it dries and then you use a top coat of gloss. It is totally indelible, never comes off on things. I would never wear lipstick that would smear or come off on a cup for a job interview. There are lots of brands that make the stuff. My favorite Max Factor Lumosity seems to have been phased out, but I know Revlon and Cover Girl both have this.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      Make sure to blot your lipstick before the interview. It will keep your lipstick marks subtler. And maybe reconsider wearing very bright or dark lipstick—think mauve rather than bright red.

    4. HigherEd Admin*

      There is a great product I use called Lip Insurance that you put on before your lipstick. It helps glue the lipstick to your lips, so there’s less chance you’ll leave a mark on the cup.

  16. anonima in tejas*

    I have a tendency to like really hot coffee drinks, and this would be the time when I would really wait and wait and wait until I was positive I wasn’t going to burn my mouth, etc.

    Also, if anyone gets your drink wrong– suck it up.

  17. OP*

    Thanks for all the advice.

    Most of it is right along the lines I was thinking. I will wear my suit and be my most professional self.

    I will have to be super careful about not fiddling with things. But, that’s something I have to watch for in any interview.

    It’s also good advice to make sure to order something simple. I’m not sure I would have thought about that, so it’s a good reminder not to cause work for someone I’m hoping will hire me.

    1. Sherm*

      Good luck! I agree with the posters who say it will be easy for the two of you to find each other. Not many people are going to be hanging out at the coffee shop in professional dress and with a folder of documents, looking like they are expecting someone.

      And I do think that an indoor seat is better than an outdoor one. My coffee shop interview took place outside, and in the middle of the interview a woman in the parking lot said “Excuse me, I’m lost. How do you get to X?” I didn’t want to interrupt the interview, but I thought it would have been rude and awkward to pretend she wasn’t there. So I gave her the directions, and it wound up taking a good couple minutes for her to understand. My interviewer didn’t seem to mind, but I wish it hadn’t happened.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Or “I’d love to help you, but I’m in the middle of a job interview. *gesture toward interviewer* Maybe you could ask inside? Sorry!”

    2. Dawn88*

      Just had one last week…I got there 10 minutes early to get a frozen Mocha Frappe (use straw for lipstick or too hot concerns). My huge tip: I use “lip stain” for interviews, for slight matte color that doesn’t smear off on cups, or end up on my teeth when smiling.

      Inside Starbucks was crowded at 2pm, so I got a small table outside, as far from people as possible. I made sure it was tidy, sat down and got my portfolio out and composed myself. Wore a suit, same procedure as office interview. I arranged 2 chairs, so I sat with my back to sun, to remove my sunglasses for eye contact – without squinting! I noticed 2 other interviews going on inside…inside is loud and lacks privacy. Personally, I felt it was not the greatest setup, but had to focus and not act put out. People are walking dogs by us, tots in strollers, etc.

      I had a similar “coffee shop meeting” a year ago, where the CEO and his Assistant met me there. They already had coffee and were waiting, so I didn’t order anything. It’s hard to take these “meetings” serious. I sat down and got right into it, trying to keep it professional and not “coffee klatch” style. These type meetings tend to turn too casual, go off subject quickly, unless you maintain your own poise. I personally hate it, since it’s fairly awkward and the interviewers aren’t as focused as if in their office. I’m a tad suspicious about why the “off site” meeting, what are they hiding? Generally they are replacing someone at their office and want it kept under wraps. I’d rather come in at 6pm to their office myself…I want to check out the office! Is it a dustbowl, or littered with stacks of papers? Or is it elegant and tidy?

      My take was you may need to be the one to keep the interview focused on the job…both inside and outside are very distracting environments, easy to get off subject. Inside was crowded and lacked privacy. My interviewer got off track several times, so I would wait for my chance to bring it back to the last subject before the distraction…”So, what software are you using for the job costing?” or “You mentioned job costing…I have done for several years at X job.” Whatever was the subject was, I had to politely (and deliberately) bring it back to the JOB at least 3 times. She confessed she met me there because her daughter had the job and she wanted to replace her. That explained the repeated rescheduling. That was also awkward, of course. She had been waffling and fighting with her, obviously. So that told me the job was dependent on her mood and relationship with her. She had me come meet to tell me she had (again) changed her mind, and was not going to make any moves for another month or so? I felt I dodged a bullet with that meeting.

      My best tip (besides wearing lip stain) is to try your best to remain positive and poised, because you will get annoyed at the distractions. Keep sitting up straight and leaning in slightly, smiling, hands folded on the table, or taking notes. I had a fresh French manicure, nails cut shorter…and she commented twice about my nails! ARGH!

      Good Luck!!!

  18. OriginalEmma*

    They’re a private school without a location? Where will you be working, then? Does this mean you have to wait until August/September to begin your job, when they (hopefully) have secured a space? Or is this a position supporting the admin and other non-teaching needs of a private school at an off-site office?

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      If OP is a teacher, this isn’t a very unusual timeline. My school is already interviewing candidates for a teaching position that doesn’t begin until next fall.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, education is definitely a field where the usual standards for notice, timelines, etc tend to be very different.

    2. OP*

      This is normal in education. The public boards will start posting their fall jobs in a month or so. They will have a location secured by the end of the month, but not at this moment.

  19. Zoey B.*

    I had one interview at a Starbucks and it didn’t go well.

    The interviewer chose a Starbucks location in the shadow of the Empire State Building in August. It was packed, noisy and crowded.

    Even though I arrived early, I still couldnt get a seat for the both of us and the seat I did score was out in the open which reluctantly we had to keep.

    The interviewer stated they were looking to replace their current assistant and he harped on although she was nice and tried hard she wasn’t a good fit and they wanted to replace her.

    During the interview, 2 homeless men asked for change and it was so noisy, I could barely hear myself talk and I couldn’t hear him either.

    By the end of the interview, I ended up checking out and just going through the motions for a couple of reasons.

    1. I felt it was poor planning on the interviewer’s part to not secure a better location to conduct interviews.

    2. It didn’t give me a good feeling of the management who would sneakily interview replacements. Based on the interviewers statements it also seemed this person had too much responsibilities to begin with and the examples provided created a logistics problem in my head. I remembered thinking, how can she be in any 2 places at one time?

    3. I felt everyone knew I was on an interview. I was in business attire and stood out amongst the tours of people in summer shorts and polo’s.

    4. It seemed selfish of the interviewer to choose the location most convenient to him, knowing it wouldnt have been the best interview environment. If we had gone a few blocks down or east it would have been much more quiet or he could have arranged to meet at a local restaurant. He wanted to spend 0 dollars.

    After it was over I did not send a thank you note as I had no interest in working for them. I also vowed I would never go to an interview located in a coffee shop/public setting. I truly question the organizational culture of a company who chooses to do so.

    1. Helen*

      Yeah, a coffee shop interview is my idea of hell. My worst interview yet was held at a conference table smack dab in the middle of an open office. I felt SO self-conscious knowing that everyone else in the (small) office could hear everything I was saying. I don’t know how I could cope at a coffee shop, where the tables tend to be 2 inches from each other. I’ve heard a few coffee shop interview horror stories.

    2. Short and Stout*

      This is a perfect example of an interview that could have and should have been held in one of the hotel lobbies nearby — there are probably 100 business-oriented hotels within easy walking distance where this could have been done in the lobby or bar.

  20. SaraV*

    Note: Get Alison a no-fat no-foam two Splenda peppermint mocha w/light ice to impress her that one chance day we might meet. ;D

    1. Windchime*

      I laughed when I read her original “order”; I thought, “This girl has been to a Starbucks!”. It’s crazy the stuff that people order. I always get tea, but I go with someone who orders a grande mocha with one pump of chocolate, soy, no whip no foam. Very complicated.

      1. Al Lo*

        See, and I see that “order” and think, “Oh, this person doesn’t order ‘fancy’ drinks very often!” No foam and light ice wouldn’t typically be ordered together — an iced drink doesn’t have foam anyway, so there’s no need to specify.

        (I worked at Starbucks for quite a few years, so I’m very amusedly critical of fictional “this is a crazy high-maintenance drink!” examples)

        1. Ellie H*

          The iced drinks SHOULD have foam though. Who wants just some cold milk with syrup and espresso dumped into it? Peet’s makes their iced lattes with foam, espresso and cold milk and that’s why they’re so delicious. I don’t get why Starbucks doesn’t make their lattes the same way as a default.

    2. Clever Name*

      I met a friend at Starbucks to chat, and she had a mildly complicated order. I ordered something directly off the menu- no modifications. My friend and the barista looked at me like I was insane.

  21. Cupcake*

    Sherm, were I the interviewer, I would have considered it a bonus to be able to observe you in action as you tried to explain something possibly complicated to someone who was having difficulty understanding. How patient were you? How clear were you in your directions, and what type of verbiage did you use? All of these are good indicators as to how a prospective employee will work in your office. I’ll bet the interviewer didn’t mind a bit.

    1. Sherm*

      Aw thanks :) Maybe an outside seat is better after all! I did apparently “pass” the interview, as I soon after had a phone interview with the founder of the small company. I ultimately didn’t get the job, but I suspect it was due to big organizational changes and the turmoil that comes with that (which explains, in my case, why we met at a coffee shop).

  22. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I once had my first interview in a hotel lobby, the second in a coffee shop at a conference (where a friend’s wife happened to see me, and sat down and decided to join us… awkward) but that is because the guy I would have been working for would be in Europe and I had to meet on his terms. That was OK.

    Once, in one place I worked, we took a candidate out to lunch. The wait person came over and asked about drinks. Going around the table, “Ice Tea”, “Coke, please”, “Diet Coke”, so the candidate was nervous. She requested “Poland Spring sparkling with lime”…

    I cracked a joke = “Well, you passed the first test.” She said “what’s that?”

    “Never order a double scotch on a luncheon interview!” That put her at ease, and we had a great interview.

  23. ReanaZ*

    I had an interview recently (for a volunteer position, not a job) and was supposed to meet the interviewer at a coffee shop not far from my house. I have spent years interviewing other volunteers in coffee shops, online dating, picking up students from airports, and other “meeting total strangers in public” type things and never once have I failed to see the person I was supposed to meet, even if I knew literally nothing about them (sometimes not even gender in the last case). So when I got to the coffee shop and realised I’d left my phone at home, I didn’t think too much of it.

    I got there a little early, and there was no one sitting alone. It was a tiny place, so I took a table right at the very front by the door, ordered a coffee, and waited. And waited. And waited. After 30 minutes, I gave up and went home. And had an angry message from the guy that he was giving up on me and going home. I thought maybe I got the name of the cafe wrong, and called him immediately. Turns out he was WAITING OUTSIDE and NEVER NOT ONCE popped his head inside to see if I was already there, and he was outraged that I had gone inside and got a table. “I just assumed we would go inside together and that the person I was meeting wouldn’t order without me.” ?!?!?! I just barely managed to not say, “Have you literally never met anyone in a cafe in your entire life?”

    But then he launched into some very aggressive interview questions on the phone and I did tell him I wasn’t prepared for a phone interview after waiting for 30 minutes for him to show. And I did not volunteer with that place.

    Totally bizarre all around.

    1. Helen*

      Wow. That would be awful behavior no matter what the scenario, but it’s particularly egregious that he acted that way towards a prospective volunteer.

    2. Short and Stout*

      I get the sense he never showed and overcompensated with the show of anger (don’t know why I say that).

    3. oh I flew through the sky my convictions could not lie*

      Interesting. I had a friend who had something very similar happen to them some years ago during a lunch interview. They met in front of the restaurant, the interviewer asked for a few minutes to make a phone call, my friend went on in the restaurant and got seated – and about 15 minutes later the interviewer shows up at the table, and he’s livid: “what made you think you should sit down?! You were supposed to wait for me!” My friend was freaked. The interviewer calmed down and they managed to have a decent talk, but – and perhaps it was for the best – my friend decided he was not interested in working for these people.

  24. Doom*

    I once had an interview to become an officer in the Grenadier Guards ( the types that guard the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London, but also fighting soldiers who until recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan ) Expecting a very formal interview, I was very surprised to be taken to Starbucks. Didn’t make the cut sadly, but it was an experience!

    1. the gold digger*

      Wait! Are you already in the military? What do they look for in the Guards? I expect you already had to meet certain requirements just for the interview. What qualities were they looking for? Did they test to see if you can keep a straight face while tourists are trying to make you laugh?

  25. Artemesia*

    After a few situations where arriving interviewees did inexplicable things at the airport like stomping right by poeple waiting without looking left or right, I developed the minimal requirement for a viable candidate called the ‘airport test’. Most people can meet an interviewer (or someone picking up at the airport) without problems; those who can’t may well be insensitive or self centered people you don’t want on the job. It is easy. The person arriving for the interview (or pick up) looks expectantly at people waiting– the person waiting notices this and asks them if they are ‘Dr. So and so ‘ . Most of the time this little dance immediately succeeds; if the person queried is not ‘Dr. So and so’ the waiter returns to scanning the people coming in.

    I can’t imagine it would be at all hard to connect in a coffee shop even without specific cues more than you know you are meeting a man or woman.

    The thing that was a red flag in this story to me was ‘they don’t have a place yet.’ A startup is always risky and at some point in the process, you need to see the ‘place’ — and this goes ten times if there is an ongoing location that for some reason they didn’t want you to visit during initial screening. They may be hiding nothing, but I’d want to meet with future co-workers etc before signing on the dotted line.

    1. Iro*

      If it’s a new school though, it’s likely still under constructions. My cousin was just in this situation. Got interviewd for a school not yet built. Now that the school is up an running it’s one of the best in town though.

    2. Revanche*

      To be fair: one of the startups I worked at never had a fixed location/home office and we were upfront about that before the interview. I don’t think that not having a place is an automatic red flag since there are legitimate jobs that really truly don’t have locations. We weren’t secretly meeting behind the candidates’s or coworkers’s backs, after all.

      1. the gold digger*

        Yep. My aunt’s brother started a software business in my aunt’s house. She was the office manager supporting the programmers – did all the admin stuff, made lunch (this is in my mom and dad’s hometown, which has no stoplights and no restaurants). I guess they could have interviewed people at my aunt’s house, but they might have just met at the tavern (in town) or in the next town.

        The brother sold the business to a bigger company and now my aunt and her brother and the other early people have all taken early retirement. (None of them went to college, btw.)(I love happy endings.)

  26. Career Counselorette*

    This actually makes me think of one college interview I did in high school, which took place in a greasy diner in a neighborhood that was like half-gentrified at the time and was probably just close to where the admissions director happened to be staying while she was in town. I just remember 17-year-old me got kind of dressed up, prepared questions, researched directions, left school early to be on time (ended up being WAY too early, never broke that habit), and then was really surprised to have the most casual interview with the most low-key admissions director ever, eating cheese fries.

  27. Iro*

    Not helpful to the op at all, but this reminds me of a previous team’s disaterous search to fill a role. One of their questions was “We decide to order coffee as a team, what do you order?”

    I guess they were trying to weed out picky people/trouble makers, as I know they did not like to hear the complicated “no-fat, skinny mocha no whip with soy” answers. However this one poor guy answered “I don’t really like coffee so I guess I would just order tea.”

    They went on and on for weeks about how pretentious and snobby this guy was for not liking coffee. O_O

    In my head I kept just thinking how ironic their conclusions were because I can definitely have a narcissitic streak and will drink coffee any way it’s thrown at me but my spouse who is so unobtrusive and humble just so happens to prefer tea as well.

    1. Revanche*

      Abstaining is a problem? Actually, that sort of thing does bother some people in my life and I don’t know why. They like to go have drinks after a meal and I don’t because .. I don’t! I’m always looked at with this “You’re joking!” expression.
      Nope. Not everyone drinks after every meal or even at all!

    2. Elfie*

      Yup, I really really really don’t like coffee. In fact, if I ever have to drink the stuff, I add as much milk and sugar as the cup will physically hold so it tastes as little like coffee as it possibly can! Good job I’m in the UK, home of tea!

    3. Artemesia*

      Coffee makes me sick so if I am drinking a hot drink with people, it is tea — or if it is a full service place where it is no trouble, hot chocolate. Guess I can’t work with these guys. I remember some lame news commentator making a big fuss about Obama not drinking coffee on the campaign trail at some point — think he was getting OJ. It is apparently one of the many important tests of manliness by some of a particular political persuasion in which swagger is the thing.

    4. Felicia*

      I think it’s pretentious and snobby to assume everyone must like coffee. Also snobby of that team to judge other peoples’ beverage preferences. I don’t like coffee. I just don’t like the taste. It’s possible to just not like coffee just like it’s possible to not like any food or beverage. My dad also doesn’t like coffee, never has, so it’s not like some people tell me “something i’ll grow into”, at least , i’m 24 and still don’t like it and my dad is 52 and he still hasn’t grown into it ;)

      1. Leisabet*

        I’m 32, still don’t like coffee. Or wine, or mushrooms. All tastes I was assured I’d “grow into” someday. :)

  28. GOG11*

    Stock up on Ask a Manager merch and let them know that you’ll be the one sporting Ask a Manager gear and knowledge :P

  29. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    There is also a scenario I saw at one time – where a guy had been fired — and then the manager realized he had made a serious mistake – and decided to “sue for peace”.

    He invited his firee back into the office to chat about returning. But the former employee was only willing to talk – and NOT come into the office to do so. He would ONLY meet off-site – so as to not give the impression that he was begging for his job back — after all, they were begging HIM to come back. He feared that he was being set up as a bad example and so thought if this gesture is sincere, he wanted to set the locale for negotiation.

    So the meeting was set up at a restaurant near the office. No he didn’t go back.

  30. Rune*

    I’ve done one of those and ended up getting the job offer a day later. One tip I was given for body language for a coffee shop interview is to actually remember to drink some of the latte/coffee etc. if you end up getting one. I makes you look more relaxed. Obviously, don’t slurp it down but take the occasional sip at appropriate pauses.

  31. K*

    As a former barista I feel the need to point out that “a no-fat no foam two Splenda peppermint mocha with light ice” is redundant because iced drinks don’t have foam.

    1. Stone Satellite*

      I find there’s also a distinct risk that you’ll be asked if you realize that they don’t have no-sugar peppermint flavor and is that acceptable? Don’t risk your interviewer having to come back to you for clarification. =)

  32. Bx Rosie*

    I have two interview processes start off at at the local diner/coffee shop. They were more convenient than schlepping to the offices. In both cases, the interviews were more conversational than meeting someone across a desk. I got the job in both cases and stayed for long periods of time (happily) in both positions. Echoing some of the great advice above — dress professionally (it is usually pretty easy to spot the person looking for you), smile, be kind to the servers (and tip them) and just be yourself. Good luck!

  33. Mephyle*

    This is a hypothetical question, since I’m not looking for jobs, but how would you respond if you were called to a coffee shop interview and you’re not confident that you would be able to hear well enough due to coffee shop background noise (but you need no accommodation for normal working environments)?

  34. Melissa*

    Make sure you make eye contact. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by people around you. The interviewer will take notice. Stay focused!

  35. Persephone Mulberry*

    The coffee shops I go to are never so noisy that I have difficulty hearing or have to raise my voice to have a conversation, even at their busiest. Maybe just avoid Starbucks? (she said, tongue in cheek.)

    1. Stone Satellite*

      I have no difficulty hearing normal conversations in the office, but like Mephyle mentioned above, I cannot hear well over background noise. Fortunately I’ve always interviewed in company offices (we always need a whiteboard for interviews anyway).

    2. Mephyle*

      I know enough about my hearing capacity to know that I’d be at risk of having trouble hearing in the coffee shops I go to – possibly but not necessarily a sure thing. So it occurred to me to wonder what someone in this situation should do if they are called for a coffee shop interview.

  36. mel*

    I sat in a nearby starbucks one day for an hour and I was a little surprised to see just how busy and full of suits it was. I wouldn’t worry about feeling overdressed, it seems to be pretty common wear!

  37. Lisa*

    I conduct a lot of interviews in coffee shops, and I find it puts people in a more conversational, relaxed mood. Personality counts for a lot when working with me, so I need to see you in a non-office environment (people have a natural tendency to get a little stiff when going into an office).

    Also, since I’m a Starbucks Gold member, I get refills on brewed coffee, so even if the interview doesn’t go well, I get extra coffee :) One thing I always have to be conscious of – I’m a horrendous ice chewer, so I always have to remember to get hot coffee on interview days.

  38. HR Manager*

    I would agree with many of the tips here. I had to meet an old boss at the airport coffee shop for my first interview with her – talk about all the distractions!

    Definitely stay focused, and make sure you can be heard (though do take a look and make sure no coworkers are around, especially if you’re about to say anything confidential or something that might be construed as unflattering).

    Food is ok to be polite, but I would never be chowing down unless it was meant to be a lunch meeting/interview. Pick foods that don’t require too much work with your hands or serious chomping and chewing.

  39. grasshopper*

    A brilliant tip for coffee shop meetings/interviews if you get their first or at the same time and want to avoid the awkward who pays scenario is to have a gift card for the coffee shop on hand. This assumes that it is a large chain that might offer them, but it makes it feel much more convenient to pay for the other person when there is no cash involved.

    1. De Minimis*

      Yeah and if it’s Starbucks you can mention that you’re a Rewards member and want to get the credit for buying a drink for your account balance.

  40. Inksmith*

    Keep your bag tucked away safely! The one time I interviewed in a coffee shop at a train station, my bag was stolen during the interview – the interviewer had to lend me to money for my ticket home, which was bad enough, and, because my first reaction to anything shocking happening to me is to cry (for about a minute then calm down and get on with it) I looked like someone who couldn’t cope with problems.

    Which was awkward, since it was a teaching job that, needless to say, I didn’t get.

  41. SubwayFan*

    Another pointer: if you get there first, sit somewhere that you can be seen, or be on the lookout for your interviewer to arrive. I recently interviewed someone in a coffee shop (college admissions interview) and she arrived before I did, but sat in an around the corner spot that I didn’t even know was there. After waiting for 15 minutes past our scheduled time, I called her cell to see if she was running late, and she said, “No, I’m here, where are you?” It was pretty irritating, and made a terrible first impression.

  42. Natasha*

    As a former coffee shop employee, I have an aversion to coffee shop interviews because I would frequently have tables that were too nervous or focused to order anything, and most of my income came from tips. We were the kind with sit-down service. The people who conducted business like wedding planning or went on first dates were pleasant, though, and I really liked that community aspect of the place.

    As a customer, I once overheard an interview at a Starbucks that was not going well. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but the candidate was defensive and interviewer was critical, so that their voices kept rising. He picked apart her usage of certain terms, and the job didn’t sound appealing. From that impression, I would be hesitant to accept an interview at a public place, though your comments left me more open-minded to the idea.

  43. Jan*

    I once interviewed a professional we wanted to take on as a freelancer in an outdoor cafe in Monaco while I was on vacation. It was just the most convenient location for the consultant as he lived half an hour away and our main office is in Germany (a three hour flight away). The interview went well and he has been working for us on several engagements.
    Not weird at all, saving a lot of time and I happily gave up an hour of my vacation time for this. Of course, a freelance job is somewhat different from a permanent position.

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