When Does The Interview Really Start?

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Original article, published in the Tampa Bay Times

Let’s set the scene: You have an interview at 10:00 a.m. You arrive about 15 minutes early, like the great candidate you are. But did you know that your interview actually starts when you first enter the lobby? As soon as you introduce yourself to the receptionist, your interview has officially begun. From then on, you are being monitored. From my previous receptionist experience, here are a few things that applicants have done in the lobby that hindered them from getting a job.

Showering in perfume/cologne.

If I can smell you before I speak to you, there’s a problem. Of course you should be well-groomed and display your excellent hygiene, but do not douse yourself in your favorite fragrance before an interview. If you’re a smoker, save the cigarette for afterwards. Make sure your breath is fresh, but that you’re not chomping on a piece of gum. Keep it sweet, yet subtle. You would rather the interviewer talk about how you knocked the interview out of the park than how they can’t get your scent out of their office.

Being rude to the receptionist.

May seem like a no-brainer, right? The receptionist can be considered the face of a company. Walk into the lobby, and this is the first person you see. So why would anyone strike an attitude with them? The receptionist has direct contact to the person who is interviewing you. The interviewer may even ask the receptionist how your behavior was. In general, you should always be nice to everyone that walks by in the lobby. You should always be courteous, but especially to the receptionist, who is very much the gatekeeper.  First impressions matter.

Playing Angry Birds with the sound on.

I wish I could say I was kidding, but this actually happened. You wouldn’t take your phone out during the interview, so don’t take it out in the lobby. What if the interviewer walks out, and you’re tweeting, texting, or playing Angry Birds with the sound on? This is not the first impression you want to make. Most companies will have reading material set out in the lobby. Ideally, there is a company brochure or newsletter you can look through.  You may even learn something new about the company to impress the interviewer. If there is nothing to read, review your resume or go over possible interview scenarios in your head. But please, for the love of money, do not take out your phone.

Striking up inappropriate conversations.

I have actually heard someone waiting for an interview say that they couldn’t wait until the interview was over so they could “get a drink”. It’s understandable to be nervous and make small talk to calm your nerves before an interview, but these conversations should always be kept appropriate. If there are other people waiting in the lobby, complimenting their shoes, briefcase, or watch is safe and appropriate. The bonus is that it will make you look friendly, possibly to an important client of the company.  You never know who you’re sitting next to, so always be cautious of what you say. Don’t say anything to anyone in the lobby that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in front of the interviewer.

Moral of the story:

The interview doesn’t start at 10 a.m., it starts the moment you walk through the lobby. So put your phone away, be friendly to every person you encounter, and keep the small talk appropriate. The time you spend in the lobby is your first impression, make it a good one. one.

“You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers

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