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How to have effective coffee-chats?

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Software Engineer Intern at Taro Community2 months ago

I cold emailed Tech Lead of a small startup (series A) and got the chance to have a coffee chat with them. How can I ensure that I have an effective coffee chat and it doesn't sound like an interview?

I found an open position for that company. So my real goal is to get a referral/hope that the HM is the contact. But obviously I don't plan to be upfront with mentioning a referral/the position and only bring it up towards the end.

But putting the referral bit aside, I am also genuinely interested in learning about their career, what they do, and understanding the technical aspects of the problems they are working with

Finally I would like to give value to them back as well, but there's only so much I can do as a junior. How can I give them value?

Other things I will do:

  • Be respectful of their time
  • Ensure I am clear about what I'm looking for from the coffee-chat (excluding the referral)
  • Following the Taro guidelines on being thankful and effective communication strategies
  • Avoiding asking generic questions

Finally Alex says, good communication is all about understanding the other person's incentives. wrt a coffee chat, what is the incentive for a tech lead? I'm sure a good part of it is paying it forward. But if anyone would be willing to highlight the incentive of a tech lead, I would greatly appreciate it!

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Discussion

(2 comments)
  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago
    1. Start the meeting by immediately thanking them for their time
      1. If you're feeling brave, you can even ask them directly why they decided to chat with you. Pure altruism? They want to hire you? There's some side project/open-source they want your help with? The reason will inform you of their incentives and help you carry the conversation accordingly. You can even use self-deprecation as a tactic here and say something like "I'm curious as to why you decided to chat with a clueless little intern like me...".
    2. If the meeting is in person, pay for their coffee.
    3. I assume that their company is hiring, but I would still make extra sure of that before asking for a referral. Make sure to use tentative language like "If you feel like I could add value to your team, I would really appreciate a referral. But if not, no worries - It's been fun just chatting with you!".
    4. End the meeting by telling them that you're happy to return the favor and help them with whatever you can. It's not likely that you can help, but it really is the thought that counts.
  • 1
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    Eng @ Taro
    2 months ago

    Some questions you can ask:

    1. What would you have done differently in your career?
    2. What project did you work on at the company has given you the most satisfaction? (it could open the door for them to explain a problem that had a heavy technical aspect)
    3. What teams have they worked on at the company, and what was their motivation for joining each team? (this will give you a sense of the company needs and how easy it is to switch teams in the future)

    Try to meet them somewhere with the least friction available for them, so let them pick a time and meet at a coffee shop that is close to their work.