[10.05.09]
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Interview Week: What To Look And Listen For On Interview Day

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Job interview day is a big day in job search.  You worked hard to get it, arranged a day to be available, took time to prepare and likely sacrificed something to be there.  And while not quite as big as your wedding day or the birth of your first child, one piece of advice remains the same.

Pay attention to what is happening around you.  Be especially conscious.  It will fly by so fast that, if not careful, you will be left tired and without much memory of what just happened.

From the second you leave the house, forget about trying to memorize key questions and answers and begin paying attention.  Paying attention to the sights and sounds of the day.  Because someone you love, at the end of the day, will say:  “How did it go?”  And you’ll need to have some sort of answer for them.  But more important, your reason for interviewing is not just to impress.  You are there to understand if there is a fit from your standpoint.  The company, those people, that culture. 

And if you spend all of your preparation time on how you will impress, you will be left without any of your own data regarding the fit question.

And if you get an offer at the end of the process, it will largely be because the company sees you as a great fit.  But as you evaluate the job offer – objective and subjective aspects – you’ll need a good memory of the sights and sounds of the day.  You’ll need to separate your desire to find a job with your total response to the experience.

So, what can you look and listen for on job interview day?

Well, here’s where knowing yourself a bit prior to arriving really helps:

  • Are you a social or introverted person?
  • Do you like a busy or calm office environment?
  • Are you a team player or more of an independent?

And if you know these things, you can even have “a few things to look for” in the back of your mind.

Here are my thoughts on job interview day:

Job Interview Day: The Parking Lot

From the second you exit the car and head toward the front door, there are things to observe. How big is the parking lot?  Is it full?  If visible, what can you see by looking through the exterior office windows?  Are there product posters or other signs of life?  How about the grounds?  Well manicured and attractive?  Does that matter to you?

Job Interview Day: The Lobby

How is it furnished? Are there company products out and available to touch?  If there is a receptionist, how are you greeted? Do you feel welcome or do you feel like you’ve just disrupted something important? While you wait, is the phone ringing off the hook? And how is the phone answered? With authority or with a real desire to help?

Job Interview Day: The Hallways

On the walk to your first interview, you have a unique opportunity to get a sense for the culture and energy of the office.  As you pass people in the hallway, do the smile and say hello to you? Do they say hello to your escort and ignore you?

Job Interview Day: The Offices

If you walk by offices, how are they furnished? Lots of personal effects? Are there meetings going on there or is it mostly just people on computers? Are the office doors open or shut? These are all signs. If you choose to notice them.

Job Interview Day: The Conference Rooms

How about the conference rooms? Are they being used? Do people look up when you walk by? Yearning to be in the hallway with you? Or are they animated and focused? Having fun or getting frustrated?

Job Interview Day: The Total Office Environment

What noises are you hearing?  Dead quiet?  Loud banter?  Joking?  Laughing?  Is that what you’d like to be a part of everyday?  Is this a thriving and growing company?  Or one struggling to figure itself out?  Of all the people you meet, how many smiled at you?

Now I’m not here to suggest you look for Utopia on job interview day.

And the culture of some offices are not so easy to predict based on a walk through on interview day.  But, unless you know someone who has worked there and can share their experiences, your walk through is the best evidence you have.

If you get a break.  Even a short bathroom break.  Take some notes that can help you remember HOW YOU FELT as you walked through the office area.  Especially important is to remember how you felt as you walked through what would be your department.  If those people weren’t smiling, well now you’ve learned something, right?

And, of course, in addition to your open ears and eyes, you can ask some questions to get a sense for those who work there. Open ended questions are best here. Such as: “How do you like working here?”.

So, on your big day, make sure to bring big ears and big eyes. Pay attention and allow the hours in that environment to burn a solid impression. One that will remain well into the week in which you need to decide if it is the company for you.

Or if you’ll be running from the altar in a matter of weeks.

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It’s interview week here at Tim’s Strategy.  All week I’ll be sharing ideas to help you succeed on interview day. For a summary of the ideas already available on the blog, you can read the Interview Week introductory post.


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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