Don't avoid the open interview process. Handled well, it could help you land a job — and fast.

It's said that a job search is a long-term activity — and it certainly seems that way. We submit a resume, wait for a response, set up an interview (or several interviews), go to the interview(s), wait for a decision, and so on.

However, there's another job-search option that's sometimes much quicker from beginning to end: the open interview.

Also known as a walk-in interview, this process is how companies meet many job applicants at one time, in one place. Local job fairs are a good example of this. There is generally no screening process besides registering ahead of time if required. 

However, before you attend, it's good to understand the specifics about how it works and what's required of you as an applicant.

Why it's worth attending an open interview

While it used to be that open interviews were primarily for hourly or lower-level jobs, that has changed in recent years. More and more companies are using this process to quickly hire candidates for a wide level of positions, from support staff and technical gurus to middle- and upper-management roles.

For job seekers, this is an uncommon opportunity to immediately meet face to face with a hiring manager or company representative without first going through all the regular, time-consuming steps of a “normal” interview process. What's more, qualified candidates can sometimes receive an immediate job offer right on the spot, shortening your job-search process by weeks or months.

Even if you don't get an offer and have to go through additional interviews, it's still a good bet that the process will be quicker since you've already got that foot in the door. So, what should you know before going in for the open interview? 

Carefully read the event description

The most important thing to do before you attend is to read (and re-read) the event description to ensure you're fully prepared and know what to expect.

The event description will sometimes state whether or not the company (or specific companies if there's more than one) will only be doing initial screenings or will be making offers then and there.

You'll also see the specific job requirements, any essential certifications needed, or other qualifications that would make you a viable candidate. It may also state the dress code and any documents you must bring to the interview in addition to your resume, such as certain forms of identification.

Note: Bring at least five copies of your resume, or as many as needed for the companies you want to see. Keep all papers in a briefcase, portfolio, or folder to stay organized.

If they don't mention a dress code, such as wearing jeans to the interview, consider the position you're after and dress appropriately. In general, nice slacks and a button-down or polo shirt for men is a good choice, as is slacks or a skirt with an appropriate top for women. Overall, think casual business attire.

Research each company you're applying to

Start with the organization's website for general information before checking out their Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and other social media accounts for more details. Use a site like Glassdoor to learn what current and former employees think about working there, as well.

Since each employer will meet with many candidates, doing your research can help you stand out from other applicants. By doing adequate research with a pre-interview research checklist, you'll already know a good deal about the company's goals, market space, and culture which will help you answer questions accurately and effectively — and this will be sure to impress.

Expect to wait

Since open interviews can attract a lot of people, you'll probably have some wait time before you're seen. Candidates are usually interviewed on a first-come, first-served basis so arrive on time, or a little before then, so you can be among the first in line. Sometimes interviewers work off of an RSVP list, so definitely RSVP if it's offered.

Bring something to do while you wait and a snack in case you need it. Not all venues offer food and drink, and you want to be calm and energized — not “hangry” — when you interview. 

Even after waiting for a few hours, it's possible that you'll need to come back another day to be seen. Stay calm and react professionally, and get whatever information you need for your return visit. 

Be prepared for little-to-no privacy

This can come in two forms: 

  1. You may be part of a group interview, rather than a one-on-one interview, so be ready to handle this situation. 

  2. You'll have an individual interview, but in a large open room or auditorium space with lots of background noise and distractions. This is your time to show the interviewer that you can focus well in this kind of environment.

In both cases, it may also be an opportunity for some less formal and more engaging conversation than you'd get in a traditional interview setting. Take advantage of that if you can.

Practice normal interview protocols

Regardless of the situation, this is a meeting with company representatives for a job. Do the things you'd do for any other interview:

  • Practice your answers: You may not get more than a few minutes to show off your qualifications, so make sure you can highlight yourself quickly and efficiently. Also, know which job you're applying for in case there are multiple openings so you're showcasing the relevant qualifications you have.

  • Treat everyone kindly and respectfully: From those at the check-in tables to the other candidates, make sure you are pleasant to everyone. The workers may provide feedback on your attitude, while the other candidates could end up being your colleagues someday.

  • Ask for business cards or contact information: Make sure you have the information you need to follow up with a thank you just as you would for any other interview.

Although the open-interview process can feel less formal, taking it seriously and acting professionally should still be a given.

If an open interview is happening near you, plan to check it out. The only thing you have to lose is a little bit of time and possibly a lot more job searching.

Whatever type of interview you have coming up, making sure you impress the hiring manager is crucial. Our interview coaches are here to help. 

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