You’ve done all the heavy lifting required to get the interview, so it’s easy to see the interview waiting room as a kind of inconsequential space – the next round of real action doesn’t happen until you actually get into the interview room, right?
Wrong. The waiting room is more important than you might think. In fact, there are many was in which a candidate’s actions in the waiting room can help or hinder their employment efforts.
That’s why it’s important to not take the waiting room for granted. Instead, you need to use the waiting room as a place to engage in positive, career-enhancing behaviors.
Perhaps most importantly, you also need to avoid these five waiting room mistakes that so many candidates make:
1. Arriving More Than 10 Minutes Early
You should never risk arriving late, but arriving too early can be almost as harmful to your candidacy.
That may sound counterintuitive, but think about it: You arrive 30 minutes early, and the receptionist announces your presence to the interviewer. The interviewer is probably a very busy person – and now you’ve added to their stress by showing up way before they were ready for you. As a result, your interviewer may head into the interview already feeling negatively about you.
Your best bet is to arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview. If you do arrive earlier than that, wait in the car or in a nearby cafe.
2. Not Realizing the Interview Started the Second You Walked in to the Building
You are being judged from the moment you walk onto the employer’s premises and engage with front-line staff members such as security guards and receptionists. Industry insiders report that hiring managers often ask greeting receptionists for their opinions on candidates, the idea being that these people get a more genuine view at what the candidate is like before they put their interview face on.
If you’re interviewing for a leadership or management positions, employers will likely be looking to see how respectful and friendly you are with less-senior workers. The way you interact with the receptionist or security guard can say a lot about what kind of leader you’ll be – so make sure your behavior says something good.
3. Failing to Get on the Interviewer’s Good Side in the First 30 Seconds
Research from the University of Toledo tells us that interviewers form very strong and long-lasting impression of candidates within 30 seconds of meeting them. By the time the hiring manager has spotted you in reception, greeted you, and shaken your hand, they’ve probably made up their mind about you.
Worrying, isn’t it? You’re not even in the interview room yet!
Because you have so little time to impress the interviewer, you need a well-rehearsed greeting routine. Avoid slouching in the chair, as that doesn’t make you look terribly enthusiastic. Make sure you stand as soon as the interviewer arrives, and be sure to offer a handshake that matches the power of the interviewer’s. Make eye contact, and mention the interviewer’s name as you greet them – people love being addressed by name.
Most of all, be positive and enthusiastic. Saying something like “I am really looking forward to hearing more about the business and position” is a great way to start your interview off on the right foot.
4. Not Freshening Up Beforehand
Commuting can be disastrous for your physical appearance. You might have started out looking pristine, but a 45-minute car ride can make anyone look like a mess.
Give yourself a few moments in the restroom prior to interview to check out your appearance and make sure you’re ready for the interview. Not only will you look more organized and prepared, but you’ll also feel better, too.
5. Becoming Consumed by Negative Thoughts
It’s a mistake to sit in the interview waiting room and allow yourself to become consumed by negative thoughts and self-doubt. This can lower your confidence level, which can reduce your performance during the interview in turn.
Instead, spend your time in the waiting room thinking positive thoughts. Reminisce on an achievement you’re really proud of or ponder some aspect of this potential role that really fascinates you.
Far from being a precursor to the real thing, the waiting room is actually part of the interview itself. That means your interview strategy should go into action the minute you arrive on the premises – not the minute you walk into the interview room.
About the Author
Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.
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