The more we hire, the more we see the pattern — the same polished CVs, same rehearsed interview answers, same clunky hiring process. So how can you cut to the chase and find out what a person is really like?
A traditional hiring process can tell you everything you want to know about where a candidate went to school or how many years of experience they have, but it won't tell you whether they’ll actually vibe with your team.
That's why meet-and-greet interviews rock. 🤘
Meeting a candidate outside the confines of your conference room is the perfect way to break free of the classic interview mindset and see if you’re truly compatible.
Because let’s face it — there’s nothing worse than hiring a candidate who looks good on paper only to find out they don’t live up to their resume. Meet-and-greet interviews lighten the pressure and let the candidate’s personality shine through, helping to ensure a drama-free, genuine culture add to your team.
Of course, it goes both ways. In a tough recruitment climate, candidates are craving opportunities to learn more about the role on offer.
When you’re ready to move beyond the traditional and really get to know your candidates, the right meet-and-greet interview can make the experience better for everyone.
What we’ll cover
- Why meet-and-greet interviews matter
- How to lead an effective meet-and-greet interview
- Easy meet-and-greet interview questions to kick off with
Why meet-and-greet interviews matter
Unlike a classic office interview, meet-and-greet interviews help break down the ‘best behavior’ barrier, giving you more insight into what a candidate is actually like.
For many hiring managers, these informal interviews represent the final step in the candidate selection process — either sealing the deal with your top candidate or raising potential red flags that might have gone unnoticed.
But those aren’t the only benefits of a well designed meet-and-greet interview. Done correctly, this type of interview can also reduce unnecessary steps from your hiring process, saving you time while strengthening your employer brand.
Eliminate multiple rounds of interviews
When Indiana-based software engineer Mike Conley aired his frustration with a company who invited him for nine (yes, nine!) interview rounds, he never imagined his LinkedIn post would get over 2.6 million views and 4,000 comments from fellow fed-up jobseekers.
It’s time for employers to get real about what is and isn’t needed in the hiring process. Keep in mind, by the time your candidate arrives at the final round, they’ve already been through any number of applications, questionnaires, screening assessments, phone interviews, office interviews and more.
“When I responded to the internal HR, I even asked, ‘Are these the final rounds?’,” said Conley in an interview for BBC Worklife. “The answer I got back was: ‘We don’t know yet’.”
Not exactly a great look for your employer brand.
Done thoughtfully, interview meet-and-greets can replace multiple rounds of interviews with multiple team members by getting everyone together in one place for either all or part of the interview.
You’ll get to see your candidate's behavior in a team setting, while saving precious time for everyone involved.
Offer a hands-on hiring experience
For employers in competitive talent markets, the meet-and-greet interview offers a great chance to sell your candidate on the company’s vision in surroundings where they feel like they can be themself (not a resume-regurgitating robot).
In his viral LinkedIn post, Conley suggests it’s fear — not a desire for quality hires — that is driving these neverending hiring processes:
“Companies think they are building processes that ensure picking the right candidate. I don't think that's true. I think it's due to fear of picking the wrong candidate. I think it's fear they will not find the next unicorn. I think it's fear of wasting time that ends up wasting more time.”
He suggests trial periods and contract-to-hire roles as alternatives for employers who find themselves in this position. And we think he’s onto something.
As part of a clear, streamlined and interactive hiring process, the meet-and-greet interview can feel like an organic next step in the candidate relationship.
For example, if your interview process starts with a formal office interview then goes to a trial project, you could position the informal meet-and-greet to come either before or after the project kickoff as a team trial briefing or debriefing process.
By gathering everyone together in a real work setting, this type of hands-on hiring process can replace at least one to three interview rounds with peers, leadership, or other departmental leaders.
A solid alternative to the classic interview panel
As you might’ve guessed, meet-and-greet interviews also work especially well when a candidate needs to meet several key team members at one time.
Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Walking into a formal interview and being greeted by a panel of five or more people is kind of terrifying.
But when you can reduce the us-versus-you dynamic, you can help create a level playing field. And when candidates feel like they’re on equal footing, they’re more likely to let their real self shine through. ✨
Of course, for candidates, there's more in it than just a free lunch.
Getting the opportunity to discuss day-to-day tasks and relate to future team members on a real level is a priceless way to steal a peek inside the company culture before signing on the dotted line.
Even if the opportunity doesn't pan out, informal interviews still present a great opportunity to start building a pool of candidates who are already familiar with your brand and culture.
A 2018 study by Talent Board even found that 52% of candidates who were offered feedback were more likely to maintain a relationship with the company. To keep the relationship warm with unsuccessful candidates, simply circle back with clear feedback after the meet-and-greet. Let the candidate know that even though it didn’t work out this time, you’d love to keep in touch for future opportunities.
How to lead an effective meet-and-greet interview
Like all things HR, there is an art to this stuff. Not all meet-and-greet interviews are created equal.
Here are five simple steps to help you get to know your candidates, without the pressure and awkward icebreakers.
1. Start with a simple warm-up
To start off on the right note, make sure you send each candidate a friendly email reminding them of the date and time for the interview, as well as the names and titles of the people they'll meet.
If you’ll be reviewing a trial project or skills assessment together, share a brief agenda of what will be discussed.
Remember, a prepared candidate is a comfortable candidate and that’s key to getting the insights you need. Give the candidate every reason to walk in with their head held high.
2. Invite the right team members
You want the best candidate, NOT the best interviewer. So be intentional about who you invite to your meet-and-greet.
You don't need to spend a full day compiling everyone's DISC profiles, but you do need to consider the power dynamics at play. For example, if all the participants at your meet-and-greet lunch are senior members of your leadership team, the candidate will probably feel pretty anxious and may be tempted to fall back on rehearsed answers as a crutch.
It’s also important to aim for a mix of team members from different backgrounds, departments, and levels of seniority. This helps eliminate bias from the interview process, while giving the candidate real insight into your company culture.
3. Always follow up
While many employers expect the candidate to reach out with a post-interview ‘thank you’, the truth is it’s also on you to follow up with them.
Neglecting to follow up is not only rude, it’s unprofessional. Strong communication is the backbone of every modern talent acquisition strategy, so take the time to end things on a high note.
By following up after the meet-and-greet, you’re closing the loop on the candidate experience and showing that you recognize and appreciate the candidate’s time — a huge selling point that will come in handy when it's time to make an offer.
4. Show them around
If you’re hosting an onsite meet-and-greet, don’t be afraid to play tour guide.
Onsite meetups are a great way to familiarize candidates with your office or working space and set the tone for what they can expect at work everyday.
Be sure to also leave some time at the end of the meet-and-greet for a quick Q&A. Remind your candidate that there are no stupid questions. Answer any lingering questions about the role or offer, and pay attention to any specific doubts or concerns they might have.
5. Don’t forget onboarding!
While meet-and-greets can give you a deeper perspective on your top candidates, these informal interviews also double a valuable ‘step zero’ component of the onboarding process.
Whether it’s a team outing, happy hour or even coffee break, adding a little extra time in your recruiting and hiring processes is a great way to set the scene for a strong working culture.
When the official onboarding process officially kicks off, you can keep this collaborative approach going by assigning an onboarding buddy who can help guide your new hire through their first few days on the job. If it’s someone they already know from the meet-and-greet interview, even better. 😉
Easy meet-and-greet interview questions to kick off with
Alright, you know meet-and-greet interviews are one of the best ways to get a real reading on your candidates.
But if you really want to put your candidates at ease and tease out honest answers, you need to start by asking the right interview questions.
To begin, lead with a casual opener to help put the candidate at ease:
- How was the drive over? Any traffic?
- Would you like water/tea/coffee?
Once the ice is broken, it’s time to pivot into the get-to-know-you questions. Here again, you’ll want to lead with a general approach. And remember, never ask personal questions like if someone is married or about their kids unless they bring it up first.
Keep it casual with general inquiries like:
- Tell me about yourself!
- How long have you lived in the area?
If you want to open a dialogue about the candidate’s work history, make sure to opt for open-ended questions rather than generic questions that could be answered by glancing at their resume.
Encourage storytelling with questions like:
- Tell me about your last job.
- Why did you leave your last position?
- Tell me about a time you felt really proud at work. What did you and your team do to get there?
As the meet-and-greet begins to wind down, you’ll have a stronger idea whether or not the candidate will become a new hire.
If things are looking up, you can ask a few specific questions like:
- How flexible is your schedule?
- What was your favorite part of the day/lunch/meeting so far?
- What excites you about our company?
Not only will these questions help drum up some excitement on the candidate's side, they can also provide valuable insights you can use to make your final decision with confidence.
Know your candidates better with Breezy
If your goal is to get greater insight into how your candidates think and collaborate, meet-and-greet interviews are an excellent place to start.
Combined with an easy Candidate Match Score to instantly calculate your best-fit applicants and customizable Interview Guides to objectively handle everyone's input on a candidate, the meet-and-greet interview can help deliver better hires in less time.
With easy-to-use features for the whole hiring team, Breezy is the modern applicant tracking system that helps you spend less time searching for your best candidates and more time connecting with them.
Find out how it works with a free 14-day trial.