By Joe Stein
We have had it drilled into our heads to arrive early for an interview. So, a prepared job seeker will plan out their commute to the prospective employer to make sure that they are early (and certainly not tardy) for the appointment.
The general practice is to arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to the interview’s scheduled start. There may be situations, such as having to complete paperwork where you may be instructed to come earlier, but 15 minutes is the general standard. If you happen to arrive even earlier, then stay in your car until the magic moment. This avoids you becoming a distraction to the receptionist or consuming space if the waiting area is small.
By arriving early, most of us then have to do something that can make us almost as uncomfortable as the actual interview…wait. Just like everything else (at least it seems that way) there can actually be a strategy to your waiting.
Where you wait can impact what you do during this time. You may be asked to wait in the general seating area (the lobby). In this area, you will perhaps be sitting with others, such as salespeople, who are also waiting for their appointment. If you are not in the lobby area, then perhaps you will be placed in a conference room. If this is the case, this is often the place where the interview will be conducted.
Let’s look at your potential options:
· If in the Lobby – This area certainly provides you considerably more options. Keep in mind by being in the Lobby you will also have others observing you as opposed to being in a separate room.
o Introduce Yourself to the Receptionist – Whomever is staffing the front desk, whether a Receptionist or Security, should receive an introduction. A simple communication of your name and a thank you for helping you sign in, etc. is sufficient. This serves to make sure the person knows who you are and comes away from the interactive positively about you. Some companies will make a point of asking the Receptionist what they thought of a candidate. Don’t, however, spend your entire time speaking to this person, as they have a job that they have to get done.
o Observe the Area – Many lobby areas have a variety of plaques, pictures, etc. that can provide you valuable information. You can learn about the company history, more about what they do, or just what is important to them by what they have hanging in the lobby area. You may also be able to use something you picked up during the interview. The key is to be curious. When you are curious, you are much more likely to pick up something useful.
o Freshen Up – A huge benefit to being in the lobby early is that there is usually a bathroom in the immediate area. Take a moment and freshen up prior to the interview. If you are going to be in a series of interviews, this may be your last chance to restore personal comfort. Since you came in from the outside, this also allows you to fix your hair, tie, etc.
o Review Your Notes – At this point, you should be thoroughly prepared for the interview, but a last check of your notes can’t hurt. You can cross check your notes with any information you picked up while in the lobby.
o Nothing Personal – You are there specifically to wait for the interview. Do not use this time to conduct any type of personal business (such as phone calls, texting, etc.) A prospective employer may conclude that if you can’t focus for the interview session, you will never be able to once you are in the job.
· If in the Conference Room – Your options are much more limited in a conference room (or something similar such as an office), but there are a few items you can focus on.
o Confirm if Staying - Ask whomever is seating you in the room if they know whether you are staying there for the interview or will be moving again. If you are staying, you can select where you want to sit in the room and bring out your portfolio/note pad in anticipation of the discussion.
o Observe the Area - If you are in someone’s office, you certainly do not want to snoop, so you will be limited in your information gathering. Many conference rooms, however, have company awards, photos, etc. that may be valuable to view.
o Review Your Notes - Just as when you are in the lobby, take a moment to give your notes a final review prior to the interview starting.
While you’re waiting, do your best to not add to any of your pre-interview jitters. By keeping yourself busy, you should help alleviate any stress. If your interview does become delayed due to the interviewer falling behind in his or her schedule, do not let that rattle you. Stay calm while waiting and do not show any appearance of being bothered by this occurring.
A job seeker needs to make every moment count, including those minutes spent waiting for the interview to start. This time can be extremely valuable in your preparation and should be used wisely in order to give yourself a competitive advantage.