I once introduced a law student to a senior professional to discuss what work is like within their ASX20 company. The student went to the coffee chat in ripped jeans and asked questions like whether the company was international and how many offices they had. The senior professional was annoyed that they had spent time out of their working day to answer questions about their company that were readily available online. There was no follow up on either side. 

This was a squandered opportunity for the student, as I knew that the company was looking to hire. The student had failed to gauge the hidden formalities of the seemingly informal introduction. Here, I share some tips on how to a prepare for a seemingly casual coffee chat, so that you may maximise your chances of forging an authentic connection.  

What is a coffee chat? 

There is a lot more than coffee on the table when a senior professional agrees to meet with a younger professional. The main purpose of a coffee chat is so that the junior professional may informally interview the more senior professional about their career. Other benefits to setting up a coffee chat include: 

  • Gain insight into what the “real world is like” from someone who has life and professional experiences they are willing to share
  • You create the potential to hear about roles through the “Grape vine” or before they are advertised or for your name to suggested 

Whilst you may feel trepidation at having a one-on-one with someone who you barely know, there are certain things you can do to prepare, make the most of the short time you have and lay the foundations for an authentic ongoing professional relationship. 


  1. Research the person online. Note their experience. Think ‘what do I want to ask them?’ 
  2. Note questions in advance (but don’t go with speaking notes).  
  3. Also consider, ‘what do I want to get out of the meeting?’ 


  1. Dress professionally – casual business attire at a minimum  
  2. Be early, get a good table  
  3. Be cool, calm, and collected  
  4. Ask open-ended, informed questions (Eg. Don’t ask about the size of the firm if that is readily available online) – ask about previous roles and organisations or career highlights.
  5. Ask for their advice
  6. Listen to what they say


  1. Send a follow-up note thanking them for their time  
  2. Share a link to a relevant article or something you chatted about  
  3. Keep in touch 

Most importantly, be yourself. You are doing all the right things, smart and on the right track.  

Go get ‘em!

The hidden formalities of a ‘coffee’​…