I had a coffee with a potential manager in his company café and we discussed my past and current experience but it wasn’t referred to as an interview. It lasted 1.5 hours. The final 30 minutes were with his manager, who dropped by.

I never applied for a job and never shared my resume. We connected on LinkedIn and arranged the coffee through LinkedIn messages. I know he has a job opening (and one more coming up) and he confirmed that in our coffee chat, but he didn’t explicitly say the chat was an interview for the job opening, so I am wondering how I can follow up without sounding like I am bluntly following up on a formal interview. I’d like to get feedback and want to know what next steps are. Should I send him my resume and ask whether he would consider me as a candidate?

Nick’s Reply

I want the jobDon’t ask whether you’re a candidate. Tell him that he’s a candidate to be your boss.

This is the best kind of interview. It sounds promising, but we just don’t know whether it’s for one of the two jobs you mentioned or for something in the future.

Give the manager a signal

While you’re worried this “non-interview” may lead nowhere, the manager may be waiting for you to tell him what’s next. Many managers look for something few candidates ever display: motivation and desire for the job.

Having the right skills and experience is important, but I find that the best managers won’t make a hire unless they see clear indications a person really wants to work for them. Motivation is at least as important as skills, which can be taught. The amount of time the manager spent with you is a strong positive signal — so signal back to him.

I want the job

Use your own best judgment, of course, but I think a simple e-mail is best, confirming your enthusiasm and motivation. For example:

How to Say It

“Thanks for the good conversation last week and for all you shared about your department (and for the coffee!). I’m impressed, and I want you to know that based on what I learned, I’d be very interested in joining your team if an appropriate position is open. You’re the kind of manager I want to work for. Thank you for spending so much time with me.”

Very few candidates ever come out and tell a manager “I want to be on your team!” yet that’s what any good manager wants to hear – a commitment! What I’m suggesting is a very clear expression of interest without being pushy. I would not send a resume. If he wants it, he’ll ask for it.

Show even more enthusiasm

If you want to go a bit further in showing your enthusiasm, find a really good article that addresses an issue that was discussed during your meeting. Attach it to your e-mail along with a couple of comments about why the manager may find it helpful. Show that you’re already thinking like an employee.

When you make yourself this clear, you need not do anything else. The next move is the manager’s. Don’t keep pestering for a response. While you wait, the best next step for you is to move on to your next opportunity and pursue it the same way.

Nice work getting a meeting that’s better than an interview! You had a conversation driven by your interests and the manager’s — not by an “HR script.” Whatever you decide, please let me know how this turns out. I hope something I’ve said is helpful.

(For more on the topic, check this article.)

Why do you think the manager invited the reader for coffee? Was this a job interview or something else? How should this reader follow up? Is “I want the job” the right message?

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  1. Love this approach. Take charge. Be direct. VS Sitting. Waiting. Hoping.

  2. I can see where it is a bit questionable whether or not this is an actual interview. Maybe this is how they interview. AND given that the ‘Manager’ just happened to pop in and talk with him for 30 miinutes makes a statement leaning on the ‘interview’ side and how they do their interviews. Don’t always have to have the ‘resume’ laying there to understand if a person is the right fit for the team and possible role. I pesonally prefer the ‘conversation to the question and answer interview, much better. And yes definitely a followup, within a few days maximum. @Nick I love how you worded an email response, may I plagerize it? Really? The one thing I might add is during the conversation or before I parted ways with them at this ‘get together’ I try to verbalize saying all of this what @Nick said, just doing so in person… always try to end my conversation with a ‘close’ and like was said to be a member of the team. Sometimes it’s all a fine line to walk… if you can try something i.e. the close/ask for the job … during the conversation all the better they might then discuss a particular opportunity, etc. AND still do the email follow-up within a few days maximum. In person or on a call with them I usually ask ‘How do you see me in this role, etc. and sometimes I will ask … did you get a big response.. and they might say ‘yes’ and elaborate, i.e., tell me that a lot are not qualified, etc. indirectly giving me more info and this also serves the purpose when I ask how they see me in the role., etc., gives me an opportunity to clarify things if needed.

    • @Karen: All good points and suggestions. How a person “says it” or handles it of course varies with the situation, their style, and how the discussion went. But I believe the key is to make a clear commitment. I’ve seen job candidates of all styles and attitudes, but the ones that stand out are those that make a clear commitment.

      When I do live events I often tease my audience about my marriage. “What do you think it took to get my wife to agree to marry me?” There are always a lot of fun answers, but the right one is, I told her I love her. Other things were important, too, of course — but without those 3 words making a clear commitment, she never would have said yes.

      So, you can ask for the job and ask other good questions. But no question carries the weight of “I want to be on your team – I want this job.”

      I came up with “How to Say It” long ago, when I realized people were telling me they loved my advice but somehow just couldn’t find the right words to implement it in a real situation. That’s when it hit me that casual and direct is best, and that it’s easier for someone who is NOT in the situation to come up with some good wording. It’s hard to find the simplest way to say something when all kinds of things are swirling in your mind in the thick of your job search. So try this yourself: Describe your situation to an astute friend or colleague, then ask them what you could do — and how they would say it.

  3. I totally agree w/Nick’s advice. It works! Good luck.

  4. Nick,

    It looks to me like the “potential manager” was a reader of your column and did what you always suggest managers do. Which is always recruit and keep hiring options ready. There may or may not be a job right now for the writer of the question, but it’s extremely likely the manager has put him in his “Rolodex” for further consideration.

    This is a great story all around, and shows that we don’t have to accept the nonsense of Monster, HR, keywords, bots, etc. in order to find a good position.

  5. Interview or not, if I am interested, I say something.

    In formal interviews, if I am interested in taking it to the next step, I say something like “I have really enjoyed this opportunity to talk. I would like to come to work with you.”

    I will use the analogy of the high school boy who never asked his crush to the dance. And years later discovered she was waiting for him to ask.

    • @Gregory, totally agree. in addition to what I previously wrote, after asking how they feel I woiuld be in the role, I also do say ‘I’m interested in working for them and ask what would be the next steps’? Depending on who I’m talking to, i.e., HR versus Hiring Manager, after I say what are next steps .. since I’m usually applying for a Sr. Sales Engineer in the Sales group… depending on how personable the hiring manager is, I may laugh and say … I’m in sales so I’m letting you know I’m interested and trying to close the deal here.. they typically laugh also and say they understand… … .. …

      Still right now it is difficult trying to find something that works for me… and closin the deal.. I’m not giving up UGH..

  6. Telephone back and tell the manager that you have been thinking about your conversation and that you know that you woud be a wonderful candidate to create the success and deliver the achievement that the THREE of you were discussing. Go into some detgail about whatg HE wanted, and his manager.