How a Coffee Order Can Kill Your Career

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The days of job interviews in stark cubbies are a thing of the last century. A job interview today is just as likely to be conducted in a Starbucks, Peet’s or the local purveyor of caffeine.

Many of you have had the awkward experience of being asked tough interview questions while sitting six inches away from someone working on the laptop who pretends not to be listening. Take a look around the corner coffee shop and you will see the sweaty palms of people being interviewed. You will see also the people who park there all day and send out resumes in the hopes of getting an interview in the same shop.

Don’t be fooled, an interview at a Starbucks is no less an evaluation process than those held in corporate conference rooms. In a virtual world, the coffee shop might be the only place to conduct an interview. For me, it is often the most convenient place to meet and greet.

Having done more than a few interviews over a cup of coffee, there are three simple rules that might turn the coffee meeting into a job.

  1. Order something that is simple. What you order might say something about you that you don’t want to reveal. I was with a candidate at a Starbucks, when it came our time to order she went first and happily said, “I will have a tall iced coffee in a Grande cup with extra ice, 3 pumps hazelnut, 2 pumps classic, an inch of non-fat milk, with a dome lid and a Venti straw. It was a first impression that this person was going to be complicated and a lot of work. The rest of the interview only confirmed my impression. Use good judgment here.
  2. Never let your guard down. Just because you are in line waiting to order the coffee with the interviewer doesn’t mean you are not being evaluated. The interview doesn’t start when the coffee arrives. All the interview tips ever learned apply whether shaking hands in the parking lot or standing up waiting for a seat. One skill especially critical in a coffee pub is the ability to focus with noise and distractions all around you.
  3. Dress like it’s an interview. Others may look like they are in their pajamas when in Starbucks but they may not be on an interview. Dress sharply, whatever that means for you and the potential employer.

Interviews in the coffee shops are the new reality. Don’t miss a great opportunity over a spilled Non-Fat Latte with Caramel Drizzle.

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