Job interviews are the latest thing moving towards a more casual feel. Gone are the days of a structured, awkward interview in a conference room with the management team. The traditional formal interview makes everyone nervous and don’t really work well. Candidates are stiff and guarded in their responses, while dressed up interviewers don’t give a true perspective on what it’s like to work there.

Today’s job interviews tend to be more of a low-key, informal conversation between colleagues. But that doesn’t mean you’re not assessing each other, you’re just doing it in a different way. You need to figure out if candidates are a good fit for you and they want legitimate insight into your company culture.

An informal chat can work best for both sides, putting candidates at ease and making it easier to get to know each other. To power up your hiring process, keep your interviews casual and unstructured with these tips.

Why Casual Chats Work Better

A formal interview just makes everyone nervous and doesn’t give candidates a real view into your company culture. After all, everyone’s on their best behavior during them, even the interviewers. And a bad experience makes it harder to hire good candidates.

A relaxed, casual chat is the perfect way to put candidates at ease so they’re able to be themselves. Even calling it a “chat” instead of “interview” may make all the difference for some people. It removes the pressure and awkwardness they feel during interviews and gives them the freedom and confidence to speak without reservations.

Here are some tips you can use to keep your job interviews casual and unstructured.

1. Include Team Members

A few decades ago, candidates would typically interview with upper management for any position. They rarely spoke to the people they’d be working with daily until the first day on the job. Stocking an interview with management types gives the impression that your company doesn’t value all employees’ opinions. It can intimidate the candidate and excludes the candidate’s potential colleagues from the discussion. While the ultimate decision to hire resides with management, they should listen to input from the team too, which they can’t do if they don’t see the candidate.

2. Improve Your Employee Experience

The employee experience is becoming a bigger factor for candidates today. The latest LinkedIn Talent Trends Report found that 77% of companies are focusing on employee experience to increase retention and that 29% of them are using it to attract more candidates. And the employee experience starts before they become employees.

In your casual chat with candidates, encourage a free-flowing discussion that doesn’t need to follow a script or formal route. This is a time for you to get to know candidates, but also where they learn the most about you too. They’re interviewing you as well, so show off your company in the best light.

3. Relax the Dress Code

There’s nothing like showing up to a job interview in a suit and the interviewers are wearing jeans and t-shirts. If your company has a casual dress code, tell candidates before they come in. Not only that, but remind the interviewers that they should dress as normal too and that there’s no need for formal wear.

That also includes the location of the chat. Skip the formal boardroom or your biggest conference room and go somewhere else to chat. Everyone will be more at ease and the discussion will go more smoothly.

4. Discover More Soft Skills

Successful candidates are creative, adaptable, and collaborative, but you might not discover that if you’re only judging them on their resumes. Given the pace of evolution of automation and artificial intelligence, you can’t hire candidates based on their hard skills anymore. Research firm McKinsey predicts that demand for creativity will rise sharply by 2030, while LinkedIn’s Talent Trends Report notes that 80% of business leaders are already starting to place higher value on soft skills.

A casual chat with a candidate can reveal those soft skills as you talk and give you a better glimpse of the candidate as a person. A formal interview tends to lead candidates to talk about their resume highlights and not tell the stories behind them. You’ll never learn how they succeeded, what obstacles they overcame, or how they applied the hard skills to reach their objectives.

The casual environment will help candidates speak more freely and tell stories of their experiences. Interviewers will be more likely to encourage these stories and dig deeper during a casual chat, helping both sides gain a better understanding of each other.

A casual chat or interview is still a job interview, don’t forget. Instead of restricting it to a rigid set of rules, location, and dress code, let loose. Make the atmosphere more conversational and encourage both interviewers and candidates to chat freely and let the conversation guide the topics covered. Your company will showcase your culture more readily, keep the stress levels down for everyone, and discover more about your candidates than what’s on their resumes.

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