Managers conducting interviews in public venues: Stop the madness!

Managers conducting interviews in public venues: Stop the madness!

Summary: Anyone spending time working in public venues such as coffee shops will eventually witness a candidate for a job being interviewed in public. This is very demeaning and should never happen.

TOPICS: Mobility, Privacy
Coffee shop

Have you ever been in a coffee shop and seen a manager interviewing a job candidate in the area for customers? Asking them all sorts of very personal questions in public to share their answers with nearby patrons? This happens all too frequently and is very demeaning for those job applicants.

I often work in coffee shops and can't remember how many interviews I've seen (and heard) conducted in these very public places. The managers who choose to do these interviews seem oblivious to how it exposes already nervous applicants to public display.

The personal information I have seen exposed makes me sick, yet the interviews keep happening. Maybe these managers believe that a nice coffee shop is more relaxing for the applicant. Applying for a job is certainly nerve-wracking in any location. If that's what drives these managers to do this they are sadly mistaken in this writer's view.

See related: Exciting work venues for the mobile professional

I've heard applicants talk about the reasons they left their prior employment. I've heard heart-breaking accounts of family problems that make getting that particular job so important. I've heard of sick children desperately in need of health insurance. I've heard people practically beg for the job.

None of these discussions should ever have been held in public, within earshot of everyone in the immediate area. Job interviews often result in the disclosure of personal information and should be held in private. 

Job interviews are the most common personal meetings that happen in public but are by no means the only meetings I've been exposed to. A few weeks ago a meeting was held, in a coffee shop at a table about 6 inches away from my own, that was incredibly personal.

It didn't take long for the loud discussion at that meeting to make it clear to everyone around that the young lady was meeting with a government official to discuss a sexual harrassment claim against her previous employer. The harrassment was discussed in incredible detail and before the meeting was concluded the name of the attorney being reported was shared (I'd like to think unintentionally) with coffee shop patrons.

So please, managers and other workers who conduct personal meetings such as those discussed, keep them private. It is not fair to make job applicants (or anyone) have personal discussions with you in public. Even if you choose the location to make it better for the nervous applicant it's not the thing to do. Privacy should be a primary concern for every meeting, so choose your meeting spot accordingly.

Topics: Mobility, Privacy

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  • I think...

    It's a means of the interviewer showing how hip s/he is or how cool it would be to work for that person and that company. It's the dotcom or startup mentality, but extends to companies beyond those that fit those definitions.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ushering in this new mindset of corporate culture. I think it's the sooner the better that we can get away from everyone being clean shaven with short hair, wearing a suit and tie, being married to the 9-to-5 schedule and having to be in the office to be considered working, etc. That's a pretty antiquated model given technological developments. It may still be necessary for some verticals, but many cling to it simply because it's the way it's always been. The problem is, the employer is getting the best of both worlds. They're most likely getting time from you evenings and weekends when your at home, but many frown if you dare to try and work from home during office hours every once in awhile because you're switching cable companies and have to deal with a "between noon and 4 PM" install window or have a 10:30 doctors appointment and it makes little sense to come in the office for a couple hours, pay for parking, then leave and come back and pay for parking again (most likely close to full day's rates both times).

    That being said, there's still a time and a place for all those things. An interview doesn't have to be like going to your grandfather's funeral, but as an interviewee, I don't necessarily want anyone who walks into a coffee shop knowing my business. Especially if it's a coffee shop that's near my current office. Imagine the awkwardness of your boss or one of his/her peers popping in to grab a cup of coffee while you're in the middle of an interview. If you want to show how cool your company is, take me on a tour of your office, show me the foosball tables and the in office cafes, tell me about your flexible hours and telecommute options, show me your employees wearing jeans and untucked shirts, etc. Buying me a cup of coffee and interviewing me among a crowd of hipsters with all their mobile tech doesn't impress me.
  • 1st Interview - sure why not

    I think this is a perfectly acceptable place for a first interview. It all depends on the company, the culture, the style of the manager and the whole approach. Two of my first job interviews in the past ten years were held in a coffee shop. Would I necessarily hold one there? Possibly not, but I have held meetings with people outside of my office and company at a coffee shop and that seems to be deemed ok.

    A coffee shop is theoretically neutral ground. It doesn't draw attention to either the interviewer or the interviewee and it is more likely an informal conversation that tests the candidate's initial cultural fit, their presentation, their eloquence and quite frankly, their ability to navigate. There's nothing necessarily pompous or conceited about the interviewer choosing a public space rather than their offices to hold the meet and greet which is what it usually is. On both occasions that i met for interviews at a coffee shop the following interview meetings were rigorous and numerous and were all held at corporate offices. You may not like it, but it is a low cost first step and seems to be very normal, for some companies at least - call it coffee culture!
  • I see no issue as long as...

    As long as the prospective employer saves the questions that would be best answered in private for a more formal (and private) setting, I see no reason why coffee shops and restaurants couldn't be a viable venue for an interview. The other thing to take into consideration is that these interviews should be held during off-peak times for the venue (so there is less background chatter to compete with).
  • In a Pub

    Reading this took me back several years, I had applied for a position with a company. Was informed that the interview would be held at the local Job Centre. When I arrived I met the interviewer, was taken to a small office. No sooner had I sat down than a security guard entered the office and asked the interviewer to leave. After a heated debate on the protocols of using the office. "Which my interviewer had said he had booked". We left the Job Centre, have you ever been interviewed walking through busy street's? Boy that was no fun, we went into the nearest hostelry to finish the interview. I didn't get the job, and I am not sure I would have taken it if I had. So I think an interview in a coffee shop would be a step in the right direction.
  • Really?

    I can understand that ongoing legal proceedings probably shouldn't be discussed in a public venue, but a job interview? I guess we shouldn't let people have first dates in public either, since personal details of their lives are going to be shared.
  • I was interviewed in a coffee shop

    It was a little weird. The interviewer wasn't the hiring manager or even an employee, but a contractor... and was disorganized. I never did get straight answers to a couple of questions that I asked.

    I got the job, which lead to the job I have now.
  • I wonder

    how many other people there are who carefully tune in on other people's conversations in coffee shops and restaurants. I suppose people who are alone and have nothing better to do would do that. When I go to a coffee shop, I am usually not alone. I tune out all those other noises and conversation and rather concentrate on listening to the person I am talking to. Even when I am alone, I concentrate on what I am reading on a printed page or on a screen. There are unfortunately eavesdroppers like you who do carefully tune in on conversations not intended for their ears. Because of this, I do think that private matters that are truly private should not be talked about in places where people like you can listen in on them.

    I can smell lawsuit in the air and its is invigorating.
  • Been happening for years...

    30 years ago, I was often taken out to lunch as part of the interviewing process. It certainly made the grilling by several different managers more pleasant.