Land your dream job : How to impress over coffee

Land your dream job: How to impress over coffee


Networking is important. There’s no doubt knowing the right people can put you head and shoulders above everyone else. This is especially true as you progress in your career. The higher up you go, the more your jobs will come through your personal network. Your personal skills will outweigh your technical skills.

Everybody seems to have advice on this: “Go to more networking events, dress for success, etc.” It’s hard to take advice like this seriously, especially when it comes from career experts who are not even employed themselves .

We’ve talked about how to use a warm, mutual contact as an introduction. So let’s look at how to set up an appointment and conduct a coffee meeting where you can make an impression.

Making the appointment

This is a little trick I learnt from my friends who are full-time real estate / insurance agents. Successful agents make appointments with hundreds of people a month. This is a tactic that greatly increased their success at making appointments.

Always offer at minimum, 2 timings to people you want to meet. Never give them an open date. It’s easier for people to pick an option; busy people don’t want to waste time thinking of a date to meet you. It dramatically reduces the number of back-and-forth to fix a date.

Here’s sample e-mail you can use:

Hi Chris,

I would love to know more about Hammer Inc. and I found out from Diana that you love Vietnamese coffee. There’s a place near your office called Phuong’s that just opened up.

I can meet you there at:

  • 1030 a.m on Monday
  • 2 p.m on Wednesday

Let me know which timing is good for you. If there’s an alternative time and place that would be more convenient for you, let me know. I could also give you a call at these timings if that would be preferable.

I always research the person that I’m meeting, either through asking a mutual friend or browsing the person’s online profiles. A little homework can greatly increase your chance of success: that’s why I mentioned meeting up for Vietnamese coffee.

You want to offer options to make people’s lives easier. Give them alternative options in case they aren’t able to meet you; I prefer to meet people face to face but some people are more comfortable talking over the phone.

Things to prepare for the coffee meeting

The main objective of a coffee meeting is to increase your knowledge in:

  • projects the company is engaged in
  • the type of people they are looking for
  • how you can contribute

As a rule of thumb, you should be asking questions around 80% of the time. Keep the last 20% on interesting projects that you are working on that is relevant to the topics at hand.

Don’t ask worthless questions: anything that can be answered by browsing the company’s website will show that you’re unprepared and be a major turn-off.

Ok, so let’s talk about coming up with great questions.


You’ll want to make sure that your questions are very specific. Questions like, “How do I get a job at this company” will just get you generic answers like apply at the job portal. Focus and drill down.

“I noticed that your website mentions looking for people that embody the values of the firm.

One of those values is, ‘Having that youthful spirit regardless of age, being open minded and adaptable.’ This seems rather difficult to find out through an hour interview, so how do you establish whether someone has this?”

(This is one of the core values of AirBnB btw.)

Visualize possible answers

The next step is to visualize the answers you could get. Does the question need more context? Refine your questions and think of follow ups that move the conversation along. If you got answer a, then what is the question you can ask?

Offer solutions

While thinking of these questions, try to think of different solutions and explain your thought process behind them. Busy people don’t like to think in a vacuum, so offer them a list where they can quickly pick an option and give you their opinion. This also gives you a chance to show off your thought process. For example:

“I’ve been struggling with increasing my company’s consultation rates with existing clients. When’s a good time open the conversation?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • After finishing the first milestone of the agreed project
  • After a fixed time frame such as 6 months into a project
  • After demonstrating increased results from my consultation

I think after demonstrating increased results is the best, because the client will have achieved what he wanted to when he hired me. He should be more open to a conversation then. What do you think?”

Things to note:

As a rough guideline, pace yourself so that you’re asking questions and taking notes throughout the interview.

You don’t want to be firing questions non-stop, a conversation should have an ebb and flow, make sure the other person is done talking before asking the next question.

Things not to prepare for a coffee meeting

Don’t talk non-stop about yourself, do not bring up your life story and how depressed you are at your job; that is all.

On the day of the coffee meeting

I like to bring an analogy in here: Think of it as a date with a really hot girl.

You want to respect the power distance (ie. you are less hot so you have to impress) but you don’t want to be so over-awed that you come across as an uninteresting doormat. So here’s a check list of things that you want to do:

  • Get there early and get seats, make sure it’s in a relatively quiet corner if possible
  • Stand up to greet your guest when he / she arrives
  • Offer to buy the drinks (if the other person offers to pay instead, let them)
  • Offer to queue for the drinks while the other person sits down
  • Leave your notepad on the table and join the other person in the queue if not

PS: Now that you’ve met the person, it’s really important you not forget the follow-up. If you want to learn effective strategies for following-up

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