10 Tips For Conducting A Great Coffee “Interview”

My pal “Sabrina” phoned me after her first coffee date with “Bill”. He seemed so promising online but “did nothing but talk about himself the whole time,” she complained. Bill squandered an opportunity to get to know Sabrina better, and turned her off in the process.

Coffee dates are like a job interview. We’ve all had experiences where the job looked great in the ad, but the poor interviewing skills of the hiring manager made us reconsider whether the job was the right fit.

Do you want to conduct a great interview? Here are ten tips:

  1. Warm up your “interviewee”
    First impressions are important, and set the stage for a good conversation. Give your date a warm smile, and ask them “warm-up” questions, e.g., “What other favourite coffee shops have you tried in this area?” and give them lots of encouragement, (e.g., nods, smiles) to make them feel as “warm” as possible!
  1. Ask open-ended questions
    Try to avoid questions that only require a “yes” or “no” response such as, “Do you think you would like to have kids one day?” Better to ask questions that lead to more conversation and insights about your date such as, “If you decided to have kids one day, what do you think would be the hardest part about being a parent?”
  1. Ask for specific examples
    A good way to predict how someone will act in the future is how they have handled situations in the past. Ask for specific examples about how they handled a conflict, dealt with a personal challenge, or made an important decision. For example, “Tell me about how you told your last coffee date that you weren’t interested in seeing them again?” may reveal a lot about the person.
  1. Ask good follow-up questions
    Show your date that you are really listening to them by asking smart follow-up questions. Don’t hop and skip from one question to the next if their answers to your initial question deserve more exploration. Follow-up questions can start with “why”, “how”, “when” etc., or you can simply say, “I’d love to hear more about that.”
  1. Respect boundaries
    Genuine relationships develop over time, as trust grows. Asking too pointed or personal questions too early can “scare” good people away. The purpose of the first date is to assess whether there is enough mutual interest and attraction to arrange a second one. There will be lots of time to delve into a person’s past and their opinions about heavier topics later.
  1. Embrace silence
    Many people find silence awkward, and feel they need to fill the space with small talk. Allowing for silence can help get to know the “real” person across the table. Often, people will say more and reveal more when there is silent space to fill. Not putting pressure on yourself to talk will also give you time to think about the “best” next questions.
  1. Don’t interrupt
    It may seem supportive to finish your date’s sentences, as a way of demonstrating that you are engaged in the conversation but it can also be perceived as a “control” move, lack of respect, or impatience. Plus, you may be wrong about what your date wanted to say, and interrupt their flow of thought – not good for building rapport!
  1. Keep an open mind
    Be positive and non-judgmental about what people say. Never shut them down with comments like, “That’s ridiculous”, “That can’t possibly be true,” or “I don’t believe you.” Even if you disagree with their point of view, use it as a platform for further discovery rather than an abrupt end. Perhaps being open to different viewpoints is a way to challenge your own beliefs!
  1. Invite them to ask questions
    Too often “interviews” are top-down, when they should be an equal exchange of information. Some people may feel shy to ask questions for fear of crossing your boundaries. You can help them by asking whether they are curious about anything they noticed in your profile, or perhaps found when they googled you (who doesn’t google a date in advance?)
  1. Say “thank you”
    Whether the “interview” goes well or not, always be gracious and thank the person for meeting. And don’t hesitate to say, with extreme kindness, if you have no interest in a second date. It’s possible to “reject” someone while still making them feel great about themselves. It’s a small world, so who knows when your paths may cross again. You can’t afford to be less than gracious!