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Grande appearance at Starbucks may help land job elsewhere

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

All I said was I saw a “woman in a pant suit that is two sizes too small” and a man in a sport coat “that is too long for his shorter body and makes him look sloppy.”

This I pointed out in a Facebook post as I sat observing people at Starbucks who clearly were there for job interviews, and it may seem picky on my part.

But, I added, how you look is just one of the many things employers tell me they notice when evaluating potential employees' judgment.

That post got more views, responses and conversation than anything I've ever said on Facebook.

One person added a comment about some of the hideous clothing she's seen job hunters wear to interviews at Starbucks. Another pointed out that she “never understood the conducting an interview at Starbucks thing.”

Why so much interest in job interviews at Starbucks? And why is this locale so popular for interviews?

Do employers get more out of interviews at Starbucks than in their offices? Many say, yes.

A brief get-together at Starbucks can tell them a lot — more on that later.

An employer may not even have a job opening — yet — but is willing to meet informally to get to know you for the future. Or the potential employer may not want others in the company to know about the possibility of hiring someone new.

A small-business owner told me, “We don't have some glitzy office, so we don't want to blow the illusion before someone is even interested in working for us.”

A ton of people don't have offices in brick and mortar buildings. Starbucks is their satellite office because they work from a home office and hire contract workers who also will work from home.

Most employers say meeting at a place like Starbucks, which also has free Wi-Fi, is simply less formal.

“It's more comfortable for everyone. It's a neutral space, more of a shared experience than a lopsided one where a person is sitting in your waiting room and then your office,” another manager said.

Safe to say, meeting at a place like Starbucks is less intimidating.

The experience feels more like a conversation, which is what an interview should be. And that brings me to the extra boost, aside from coffee, that employers get from interviews at a place like Starbucks.

Because you feel as if you're on equal footing, you're likely to be more relaxed. You may even interact with others at the next table, which can be telling for an employer.

In that more relaxed, communal environment, you may also “tell me things you might not otherwise say,” one company owner said.

In other words, employers can get a better feel for what kind of person you are.

Indeed, that's precisely what they hope for.

In that first encounter, they are wondering:

• Are you someone I would like to work with?

• Do you have the right attitude?

• Do I feel good with you?

• Are you enthusiastic?

• Do you connect with what I need?

• Do you come off as genuine?

• Are you flexible?

• Do you look and act mature and professional?

Yes, skills matter, but not as much as who you are and how you come across to the person on the other side of that table at a Starbucks near you.

Andrea Kay is a career consultant and author. She can be reached at andrea@andreakay.com.

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