Who is one of the most important people in the interview process? The recruiter? Sure they’re important; you go through them to get to the interview.
Human Resources? They’re important, as well. Like the recruiter, you may have an initial phone interview with them.
The hiring manager? Definitely important. They make the final decision. You don’t have the goods, you don’t get the job.
There’s one other person you may not be considering. That person would be the office guardian.*
Why the office guardian is so important in the interview process
Read the following brief story which illustrates why the office guardian is important in the interview process.
A job candidate was applying for a position at the organization for which I currently work. He called for directions to the career center, which is common practice; however, he was so belligerent that he reduced our office guardian to tears.
Apparently this man thought he was all that and could treat our office guardian like a third-class citizen. This was a huge mistake on the candidate’s part.
This interaction was relayed to the director of the career center. He took it upon himself to promptly call the applicant to tell him not to bother coming in for the interview, and lectured the candidate on how NOT to treat one of an organization’s most important assets.
If you’ve never considered the importance of the office guardian, than you should change your thinking. Whether you’re applying for a CEO, vice president, middle management, or individual contributor position, you damn well better treat this person with respect.
How to interact with the office guardian
1. Getting the call for an interview. In some cases—especially at a small company—the call for an interview may come from the office guardian. Answer the phone professionally, e.g., “Hello, this is Bob McIntosh. How may I help you?”
Then thank the office guardian for calling and that you look forward to the interview and hopefully meeting as many people at the company as possible.
For good measure, ask the office guardian to restate their name. And repeat their name to show you’re paying attention.
2. Calling for directions or the agenda. As depicted in the story above, calling for directions is appropriate, and most likely the office guardian can provide the best possible directions, including when rush hour occurs, or if there’s road construction along the way.
You were astute enough to ask the office guardian for the interview agenda, including who will be present in the interview. The office guardian gladly disclosed the information, giving you an advantage for the interview.
Make the office guardian feel special for the help they’ve given you.
3. Meeting the office guardian. This is it. The time you’ve been waiting for, the interview. So the question is when the interview actually begins. You guessed it: meeting the office guardian. They are your first point of contact. Here are the steps you need to take:
- Smile, but don’t overdue it. You don’t want to come across as insincere.
- Extend your hand, especially if the office guardian is a female, and initiate eye contact.
- Say, “I’m Bob McIntosh. I’m here for the interview for the marketing specialist position. Please don’t announce me until they’re ready to interview me. By the way, Steve, I appreciate the directions you gave me. I made it here without any trouble. Thanks!” Saying their name shows you payed attention during the phone call.
- If the office guardian asks if you’d like water or coffee, say that you would if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. (Some suggest against accepting a drink, but I feel if you’re thirsty, accept it.)
- You may want to ask for the interviewer/s business cards before the interview begins. If the office guardian doesn’t have them, thank them anyways, always being polite and grateful for their help.
Go into the interview and kick ass!
4. Dropping by unannounced. This rarely succeeds. However, one of my customers stopped by the HR department of a bank to deliver a pain letter. She was greeted with warmth, asked if she’d like to meet the HM, and promptly left.
Her introductory letter was well received. She was offered an interview and landed the job. This is one of a few instances I’ve heard that yielded a positive result. I don’t discourage it, but be ready for rejection.
5. Saying good bye. Make sure you say good bye to the office guardian, even if it means waiting for them to return from a task. Say, “I just wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to thank you for all your help. I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future.”
You may have forgotten to ask the office guardian for the interviewer/s’ business cards. This is your opportunity to get them if the office guardian has them. If they don’t have the business cards, simply ask if they can clarify how to spell the interviewer/s’ names.
6. The thank you note. You may not have considered sending the office guardian a thank you note. This would be a mistake. Because the office guardian is an important part of the interview process, they deserve to be thanked as well.
Whereas you might send a unique email to the interviewer/s, I suggest you consider sending a thoughtfully written thank you card. The reason for a thank you card, as opposed to an email, is that cards can be hanged on cubicle walls for everyone to see. They’re a reminder of the good work you’ve done.
I hope after reading this, you realize how important the office guardian’s role is in the interview process. No, they don’t conduct telephone interviews. No, they don’t ask difficult questions in the face-to-face interview.
But they do observe your first impressions and if asked what they think, they will give an honest account of your first impressions, over the phone and in person. Do the right thing; treat the office guardian with respect.
*Instead of calling this individual the receptionist, I’m referring to them as the office guardian. I could be snarky and call them the “gatekeeper,” but this would be derogatory.
Photo: Flickr, vperkins