Friendly interview’ is anything but cozy

Be cautious in the interview that feels too chummy. While a good interviewer is genuinely friendly and committed to giving you a warm and welcoming reception, it is significant for your over-all performance and hiring outcome to remember that an interview is a business meeting. The interviewer is not your buddy or pal. You can blur the boundaries of interviews if you mistakenly cross over the line into the comfort zone of sharing personal information, chatting without purpose and treating your interviewer as a friend, family member, a counsellor, or confidant.

Regrettably, even seasoned job applicants can lull themselves into thinking that friendly means �friend.� You risk making this error in judgment, offering personal and inappropriate information if you:

  • Misinterpret an interviewer�s friendly nodding and encouraging smile as your signal to overly relax and “just be yourself.”
  • Are asked illegal questions and, nonplussed, offer inappropriate and damaging responses.
  • Are overly nervous, feel discomfort with silences, make failed attempts at small talk.
  • Lack pre-interview practice.

Think back to your interviews. Have your answers or comments caused you to reflect, �Uh, oh � I shouldn�t have said that�? Are you sometimes uncomfortable that you shared too much about your personal life with the employer � and perhaps you offered this information freely without being asked for it?

If you could benefit from a little help to remember what an interview is and what it is not, consider these three strategies:

  1. Your vigilance is the key to ensuring you stay focused on your mutual purposes, whenever and wherever the interview takes place � over coffee, in an office, on a tour, or even sharing a meal with prospective co-workers. You are still in a business meeting.

    This task is decidedly challenging and confusing for applicants because interviewers can unwittingly overly represent the interview meeting as �just a friendly chat to get to know one another better.� As one applicant recently observed after being involved in a series of interview meetings that included breakfast, a tour and a �meet and greet� with every person working in the organization, �You have to be very mindful that you�re being evaluated every moment of the interview � no matter how friendly the personality of the interviewers, no matter how comfortable you are in interview situations.”
    It is a message well worth remembering. Harvey Blake, Insurance Placement Specialist, advises that a meal interview requires special attentiveness: �Don�t let your guard down. Some candidates have a tendency to get too comfortable or casual when the meeting takes place over a pita pocket. Even though you�re eating, it�s still an interview.
    The conversation may be less formal, but what you say and how you say it will still have an impact on whether or not you get hired.”

  2. Help establish rapport by listening attentively, staying in control of your thoughts and entering into the discussion as an equal. Being appropriate is the foundation for mutual trust and respect.
    Whether sitting in a formal interview room, a small office, or walking with staff from one floor of the company to another, very unintentionally and without any external pressure to do so, some applicants dwell on inappropriate topics or offer up aspects of their life that have nothing to do with their professional qualifications or the work. Some interviewees don�t even realize what they have shared, but their interviewers are sure listening � and possibly making decisions not to hire.
    As one interviewer disclosed recently: �At the start of the interview, it seemed that this interviewee and I had a lot in common, similar ethnic background and even some mutual friends. But as the applicant became relaxed and comfortable talking to me, I realized she thought we had bonded as fast new friends. By the end of the interview, she had � unsolicited � shared some of the problems she was having with her boyfriend, and when she stood to leave, she gave me a kiss on my cheek. Of course, I had no interest in hiring her, let alone working with her.”
    If you are one of the many interviewees who have thought to yourself after receiving the rejection news � �I don�t understand what went wrong�we talked about everything �we really hit it off� � your problem could have started with something as simple as how you define an interview.

  3. Your definition of an interview can strongly impact your performance. Do you think of an interview as a test or interrogation? If so, you could be walking into your interviews with a pass/fail mentality similar to the test-anxiety of students. Your clues could be pre-interview stomach aches, �the night-before� sleeplessness, depleted or manic energy and low-level confidence.
    It is equally important to review how you prepare for interviews. What messages do you give yourself around your interview appearance? Is the result business-like and appropriate to your industry? Do you project a demeanor that is mature, positive and courteous?

To interview well, stay focused on the moment, the business-like purpose of the interaction, on your professional objectives. And when you land that position, you�ll have something great to tell your real friends.

Advice by: Harvey Blake, Quality Choice Consultants: The Insurance placement specialist with over 18 years experience in matching the people to positions. Many of these positions are never advertised. Our Clients are many of the top insurance brokerages and companies, as well as risk managers. Visit us at or call 416 544 8414