The most professional and efficient way to assess your candidate’s readiness for the job is trusted and traditional: Schedule a formal job interview. But unfortunately, the job interview format comes with a few limits. Candidates are often intimidated by the setting, and they may have a hard time showing their true personalities. Some candidates may be so nervous they fail to highlight key points that could help them make their case. And some interviewers also come across the wrong way in this context: too rigid, too impersonal, and not willing to share the downsides of the job (which can mislead the candidate into accepting a job that isn’t right for them.)
As a result of these limitations, some managers like to extend the getting-to-know-you process beyond the boundaries of the workplace. If you’d like to invite your candidate for a few drinks, an offsite lunch, or even an afternoon of ice cream and mini-golf, keep these tips in mind.
Don’t go alone.
Once you exit the office, you leave some of its formal protections and policies behind. For example, dress codes and behavior restrictions don’t apply when you’re meeting elsewhere as independent adults. So don’t risk a potentially awkward conversation or misunderstanding that might negatively impact your job or your company. Bring along at least one co-worker or supervisor in order to maintain a social tie to the workplace. Ideally, invite your entire team so they can also get to know the candidate who may work side-by-side with them later on.
Take advantage of your non-professional setting.
You may feel inclined to police your questions and conversation as if you’re conducting an interview, but if you’re offsite, there’s no need. Allow the conversation to become as personal as you like — WITHOUT crossing dubious boundaries by asking about the candidate’s protected status, which may include their ethnicity, religion, family status, or sexual orientation. Ask about favorite activities, food, movies, or travel experiences. Feel free to joke and connect with the candidate as long as your conversation does not stray into these inappropriate areas. (Again, having co-workers and managers present can prevent this from happening while still cultivating a warm and relaxed interaction.)
Write down what you learn.
Immediately after your interaction ends, write down the important details that surfaced during the evening or afternoon. You may not remember them reliably later, and taking notes in the moment can change the tone of an otherwise casual conversation.
Be clear and honest.
If you invite your candidates out for a relaxed social event, don’t let them assume that the selection process is complete — You haven’t yet made your decision and you’re likely to be observing their words and behavior with the job in mind. Don’t suggest otherwise.