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19 Casual Interview Questions to Ask Job Applicants

Casual interviews have become increasingly popular with both hiring managers and job seekers over the years. These interviews tend to be more relaxed and informative than traditional interview formats. Casual interview questions are often similar to questions asked in other types of interviews. However, they may be structured less formally, encouraging the interviewee to open up and speak more freely.

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Advantages of casual interviews

One of the reasons casual job interviews are becoming popular is that they encourage candidates to be more relaxed, and hopefully, more open and honest about their answers than they might be otherwise. Casual interviews can also be easier to set up since they require less formal staging. One of the goals of the process can also be to make a good first impression on new hires. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere typical of casual job interviews helps hiring managers put the company’s best foot forward during a new employee’s first visit to the office.

Informal interview tips for the environment

As stated earlier, casual job interviews tend to be held in a less formal setting than traditional interviews. For example, instead of a conference room, you may meet in a quiet breakroom or supervisor’s office. You may choose to meet at a third location, such as a coffee shop that is private enough to allow a conversation but not as controlled as an office setting. In addition, you may set up a virtual interview, which may be more convenient for all parties.

If you decide to interview in a traditional setting, there are still things you can do to make the candidates feel more at ease. One is to adopt a relaxed dress code. Popular conventional job interview tips still advise applicants to arrive at their appointments dressed one level higher in formality than the office dress code. You can encourage a casual approach by telling applicants to wear less formal attire. Consider restructuring the interview start time if that works for your interview scheduling. Instead of setting an exact time for the interview, you can make yourself available for the candidate to walk in within some reasonable range, such as the first hour after opening on Friday, for instance.

Once your interviewee has arrived, and the meeting has begun, you may open up with information about the company, the working environment and other subjects to start a relaxed, friendly dialogue. Then, gradually encourage the candidate to tell you more about themselves, and eventually, you can ease into the questions you’ve prepared.

Casual interview questions to put candidates at ease

The first set of casual interview questions you should ask are geared less toward eliciting information and more toward helping your candidate feel at ease and set up an environment where the applicant feels comfortable sharing information with you.

  1. Did you have any trouble finding the office?
  2. How was the traffic on the way in here?

These two questions help you assess how well the interviewee navigates traffic. They show concern for how much trouble the candidate went to to get to the interview, and they convey human concern that’s appropriate to the casual interview setting. These questions also allow your candidate to show you how well they handle setbacks. For example, a less-than-optimal job candidate who answers with complaints about the traffic or the difficulty of finding the office may not be the best choice for your company.

  1. Would you like water/coffee/tea etc.?

This question is not only being polite, but it’s a great chance to establish a personal rapport with your interviewee.

  1. Is the office what you expected?

A question like this gives the candidate a chance to elaborate on decor, the art on the walls, noise in the office, or anything else they would like to mention. Whatever is brought up is likely something they noticed right away and have been thinking about while waiting for the interview to begin. For example, a candidate who mentions the way the office looks might be a visually-oriented person. At the same time, someone who talks about the energy other workers seem to have could be attuned to work teams and how people interact.

Getting to know a candidate

Getting to know your candidate personally is one of the key advantages of an informal interview structure. Casual interview questions should focus on appropriate personal matters and encourage open responses. Rather than ask whether an interviewee is married, for example, you may ask them to tell you about their family and let them come out with the relevant details. Let’s look at more beneficial casual interview questions.

  1. How are you doing?

This question is simple, direct and open-ended. It encourages the candidate to open up about whatever is on their mind at the time, and it can be a valuable window into how comfortable they feel. A terse, one-word answer, such as “fine,” suggests the candidate isn’t fully engaged or comfortable sharing with you yet, while a brief funny anecdote about why this morning was hectic at home is a great sign the candidate feels good about opening up to you.

  1. Tell me about yourself.

Interviewees typically answer questions like this with the details they feel are most relevant about them. Expect the answer to be cast in the best light possible, but encourage the interviewee to elaborate. The longer the answer to this kind of open-ended question, the more informative it can be.

  1. What are your hobbies?

This question is fairly direct and serves two functions. First, the answer tells you whether your prospective new coworker is a stamp collector or extreme sports enthusiast. Second, it encourages the subject to open up and talk at length. People can usually talk a lot about the things they enjoy most, and it gives you a chance to see what this person is like when they’re interested and engaged in a topic.

  1. How long have you lived in the area?

This question invites discussion about the interviewee’s past residences, relationship history, job history and other details informing you about their history and character.

Probing candidates’ education history

Almost every job interview includes questions about a candidate’s education history. This is more common for skilled and professional positions requiring formal credentials, though even interviews for less skilled positions usually have a brief section given over to the schools and degree programs candidates have attended.

  1. Where did you go to school?
  2. What was your major?

These two questions are fairly basic and can give you a lot of information about how qualified a jobseeker is for the open position. In addition to this, you might learn interesting personal details when asking about the candidate’s school and major. If, for instance, the interviewee completed a degree in computer information science, but only after switching majors from digital new media, they could bring a unique skill set for both design and development that wouldn’t be clear from just the listed degree on their resume.

  1. Did you do any extracurriculars?
  2. What was social life like on campus?

Semi-personal questions about a candidate’s college experience can tell you a lot about how they function in environments similar to the job your company offers. If, for example, your candidate was the president of the debate society and treasurer of the chess club, they may be inclined to show leadership in team environments. On the other hand, if the interviewee has little or nothing to say about the school’s social atmosphere, they may be more introverted or work-oriented and may not have participated in many activities outside of schoolwork.

Probing past work history

Work history is obviously relevant to an interviewee’s suitability, but casual interview questions about this should be less direct than a dry list of jobs and achievements. Instead, try to draw out the interview subject with more open-ended questions that encourage openness and storytelling. Not only do candidates tend to share more information this way, but when they choose the details to divulge, you may get valuable insight into what’s important to them in a job and what they remember years after working for a company. Listen closely for criticism of past employers. While some companies may have earned a negative impression, job candidates who speak critically or express dissatisfaction with past employers may lean toward finding the negatives and dwelling on them.

  1. Tell me about your last job/company/supervisor.

Open questions such as this allow interviewees to speak freely. Try to give as little direction or prompting as you can for this kind of question. The more freedom a speaker has to tell you about a past job, the more you may learn from what they choose to tell you.

  1. Why did you leave?

This is a more directed question, and it bears directly on what might motivate this candidate to move to a new job. If the conditions were outside the interviewee’s control, such as the end of a contract or general layoffs, you might not learn much from the answer. If, however, the answer is that there was a personal conflict, the candidate underperformed, or some other highly relevant issue, you can add that to your assessment of the jobseeker’s suitability for your position.

  1. What’s the first thing your past employer would say about you?

This is a partly open-ended question. However, it invites the interviewee to tell you what they think their own performance was like at a prior job and how they believe supervisors perceive them. Listen especially closely for how the interviewee seems to feel about their most recent employer on a personal level. This can clue you in as to how they react to authority and maintain healthy work relationships and boundaries.

  1. Did your previous employer offer training classes after initial hire?

This can be a highly productive question to ask. In some cases, the answer is no, and you can move on. In others, you might learn a lot about this candidate’s range of skills. If a previous employer paid for job training on a programming language, for example, your candidate could have skills that go beyond their visible certification. Candidates who show enthusiasm answering this question are also likely to value learning new skills and may actively seek out ways to improve their performance at your company.

Relevant questions for the job

As your casual interview starts to wind down, you may have a fairly good idea that this candidate makes a good fit for the job. While you don’t have to make an immediate decision, it’s typical to ask a few pointed questions about working for your company that you might skip for less desirable candidates. These questions tend to be oriented toward nuts and bolts scheduling issues and the interviewee’s general impression about the process.

  1. How flexible is your schedule?

Ask this question even if the job is on an inflexible schedule and never includes overtime. Ideally, your candidate should be open to odd hours and displaced shifts. Watch for whether the candidate answers too quickly, as an instant promise of infinite flexibility is probably not serious or fully honest. Instead, the ideal candidate will take a moment to think about their schedule, then give a qualified answer about how much lead time they need before a major schedule shift. This suggests the applicant is taking your question very seriously and has given you an honest answer.

  1. Can you relocate?

This is similar to scheduling questions. Again, watch for qualified answers that indicate a serious mindset and honesty about limitations.

  1. What do you know about our company?

It’s always a good idea to wrap up a casual interview with something that engages the candidate and lets them ask you whatever is on their mind. While the primary purpose is to give information to the candidate, the specific questions that come up can tell you more about what is important to them and what they hope to achieve at the job if hired.

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