Thursday, March 6, 2008

Impress the Hiring Manager -- and the Receptionist

You stroll into the job interview, feeling pretty confident. You’re got the qualifications the employer is looking for, and believe you really connected with the hiring manager. When you leave, you expect to be getting a call soon. You feel you’ve got this job in the bag.

But after you leave, something happens. The executive asks the administrative assistant, or secretary, to step into the office.

“So,” says the executive who interviewed you. “What do you think of the interviewee who just left?”

“Well,” says the secretary, “I don’t know what that person’s qualifications are, but I can tell you he was rude to me and looked everyone up and down who came in the door like he was already running the show here. And to top it off, I saw him swipe one of our magazines off the coffee table and stick it in his briefcase.”

At this point, your star just fell from the sky. Because for many hiring managers, your evaluation started the minute you walked in the building. That office tour you were given? It was more than a chance for you to admire the copy machine and the break room -- it was also an opportunity for others to look you over.

Remember: Hiring decisions are so critical these days that many companies rely on input from a variety of people -- including employees of all ranks -- when making a decision. So, when you go on a job interview, here are some ways to make sure you get off on the right foot with everyone:

· Make eye contact with everyone you see upon entering the building. One manager told me the first thing she does when a job candidate leaves is consult the receptionist on how the person treated her. Was the candidate "demanding" to see the boss, or behaving in some other way that wasn’t pleasant? Managers are going to be looking to see if you have a sudden personality shift when you go from meeting administrative staff to executive staff.

· Smile. Don’t beam a 500-watt fake grin constantly, but greet others with a friendly smile, and try to relax so it doesn’t look forced.

· Dress appropriately. While casual dress is common in many workplaces, always follow the old rules of dress when applying for a job. Men should wear a suit and tie with shined shoes, and neatly combed hair. Women should wear nice dresses or suits, with shined shoes and neat hair. Don’t wear anything that will distract others from what you are saying. First impressions are critical when meeting potential new co-workers.

· Be prepared. Do your homework about the company, but also be ready to converse with everyone from the administrative staff to other managers. If you’re at a loss, you can always ask the person to explain his or her job and what they do day-to-day. Be prepared to discuss industry trends. If they want to know if you have questions, be prepared to ask some. That shows your interest.

Finally, remember that you should not ask employees you meet about benefits, days off, and if the company offers memberships to health clubs. You don't want to come off as focused only on your own wants and needs -- use the time to ask questions about their jobs.

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Miriam Salpeter said...

I guess that this aspect of the evaluation (from the receptionist, etc.) goes to evaluate the candidate's "soft" skills.

If the applicant is rude to the waiter at the interview lunch, clearly there may be a character flaw there. An interviewee who is naturally a kind, polite, pleasant person will have no trouble being evaluated well. A pompous, overly full of him/herself type will need to make a point to focus on these all-important tips!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Patricia Robb said...

Never underestimate the seemingly little people. We may look like we are just sitting behind our desks smiling and answering the phones, but if an employer is smart they recognize we can be their eyes and ears and our opinion counts.

Thanks for the great tips.


Anita said...

The hiring decision is often based on whether a manager "likes" the applicant, and he or she may well factor in the "likeability" opinion of others when making the important decision. Applicants should always be ready to shine from the minute they walk in the door until they leave.

In my early days of being a journalist, I quickly learned that if you really wanted to know what was going on in an organization, it was the secretaries and assistants who really knew the score. They were smart and savvy and had the ear of the boss. Anyone who discounts them as "little people" is doomed for failure.