job interview settings

At astronaut job interviews, the hopeful applicant has to sit in a centrifugal simulator that spins them up to nine Gs. Fortunately, most people only have to deal with offices or coffee shops. Every interview setting requires a different approach, but the key is to appear unaffected by the surroundings. Think of what Damone said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: “Act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be.” Let’s take a look at a few job interview settings.

The Coffee Shop Interview

The idea of the coffee shop interview is for casual talk when companies aren’t comfortable enough to bring you in yet. It’s not like an old fashioned driving test where the instructor puts his coffee on the dashboard and says, “If even one drop of this coffee spills you’ll fail.”

While a cafe is a little less uptight than an office setting, sometimes being around other people can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, in the same way that it’s hard to urinate when someone’s watching (not a good analogy). Perhaps you don’t want people hearing the kind of answers you’re giving, and have nightmares of the entire cafe shaking their head at you in disappointment. Try not to worry about it.

You will never see any of these people again, and they want your interview to go well as much as you do, since there’s little worse than sitting next to one that isn’t. Use the opportunity to give the kind of sincere answers that wouldn’t cause a stranger to roll their eyes or throw their coffee at you. Avoid cliches, and imagine the coffee shop as an audience cheering you on. Even feel free to invoke the help of anyone nearby. “That’s a great question,” you could say to the interviewer. “I’m going to let this girl on her iPad field it.”

The Webcam Interview

Webcam interviews can be a bit awkward since it feels like you’re an astronaut talking to people back on earth. There’s plenty of “Hello? Can you hear me? Is that you?” What’s great about a webcam interview is that you only have to dress nicely from the neck up. You don’t even need to put on pants, which gives you a bit of an advantage, unless the doorbell rings requiring you to get up. Better wear pants.

First decide where to sit in your home, with what’s behind you in mind. You could sit in front of a wall of hardbound books like a lawyer in a commercial, in front of the company’s poster that you just put up, or in front of a great view, which will make you look powerful like Gordon Gecko. Don’t sit in the bathroom.

Because the technology isn’t quite perfect and sometimes delayed, try to avoid talking over the interviewer. Check your camera angle and lighting, so you don’t appear like the bad guy in a horror movie. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, give yourself extra time by only mouthing your response. The interviewer will think the sound failed and then you can actually answer when you’re ready and the “sound” is back on. Or maybe they’ll see right through it when they hear the in-screen game of Tetris you’ve got going. Careful there.

The Office Interview

The office interview is the flagship of interview settings, and can be the most nerve-racking because of the professional environment. I mean, you’re surrounded by people who already have jobs in a room that probably isn’t decorated warmly. No throw pillows, no lava lamp, no hanging beads— how can anyone have a discussion there?

But fret not, because they don’t just bring anyone into the office. Getting an office interview often means that you’ve passed the first round, so walk in like you belong there, though don’t start firing people. Do all the research you can on the company and the people interviewing you, and then do some more. When you’re able to reference a company’s recent product releases or blog posts, it gives the impression that you’re invested in working there, and not someone who just likes talking to strangers.

Try to get a sense of the office environment, and feel free to make light of anything you notice in order to break the tension, because your being comfortable will make them feel comfortable. One time I was in a conference room that had an inflatable punching dummy. I had to bring it up during the interview, and it totally worked, because they hired me to replace the punching dummy.


Remember, the location of an interview will have a bearing on its tone, but it shouldn’t have a bearing on your tone, which is to say, even if the interview is being conducted knees deep in a ball pit, you want to show up on time, dress properly, and answer as skilfully as you can. Just try to find that sweet spot between professionalism and casualness.

For an example, this article is way too casual and not at all professional. Don’t be like this article.

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