On Your Mark, Get Set, … Go Interview!
So you made it through the pre-screens and phone interviews, and got the call. The one that says show up at this place and this time for the big interview for the job you’ve always wanted. So on “Interview Day,” you are pumped and ready to hit the starting line and get the interview underway. But where exactly is the starting line? Do YOU know? Some obviously don’t. Let’s work backwards to figure this out.
The most naive answer to when does the interview start: when you sit down at the table and the first question is asked. No, the interview started well before that.
Some might say it starts when you are introduced and shake the hand of the interviewer. Granted, you are interviewing at that moment even though the questions haven’t starting coming yet. And your demeanor and ability to make small talk as you walk through the halls to the office or conference room are being observed. But the interview started before this point, too.
Many would say the interview starts when they walk into the lobby and meet the receptionist or sit down in the manager’s lobby area across from his administrative assistant. It is very true that anyone you meet during your office visit is a part of the interviewing process. Some managers even make interviewees wait in the lobby and prompt the admin to strike up a conversation. Later, this boss can ask the admin what he or she thought of the interviewee’s people skills. Some candidates let their guard down in these casual situations. On a rainy day, when the admin says, “What crummy weather today,” do you say, “Yes, and I got my shoes all wet” or “We’ve needed this rain for a while?”
So is this when the interview starts?
No, it starts earlier than that if you are interviewing at a smaller company where the parking lot is right outside the office windows. You never know who might be watching when you arrive early. Have you heard of the candidate who opened their car door and let all kinds of trash and fast-food wrappers blow all over the parking lot? How about the one who got into some irate discussion on his cell phone while banging on the steering wheel? Or the candidate who gets dressed in the parking lot? Or gets there so early, he takes a little nap? Don’t think for a second that these “first impressions” are not part of the process.
On a rare occasion, the starting line may even be where you step into your car. What kind of first impression would you be making if you cut off the interviewer in traffic, or worse yet, rear-ended her car en route. As they say, stranger things have happened.