Tag Archives: interview

Nailing the interview process, part 3: research, research, research

You’ve heard it over and over again: You need to do your research before an interview.

Research

Why? Because:

  • When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
  • When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
  • When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.

The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.

What, exactly, should you research before your interview? Here are four areas the interview will likely cover:

1. The Position

This should go without saying. Most of the questions an interviewer poses will address the position, so you’d better know your stuff.

The most obvious resource here is the job description. A well-written job description should provide valuable information like the skills and experience required for the position. Descriptions will often list these things in order of priority.

Go to the “Required Experience” section of the job description first. Note the list of skills and experience and the order of priority.

You can take your research on the position further by talking with someone who works in the company to which you’re applying. Ask if there are any additional requirements not listed in the job description. You may uncover key requirements that were not mentioned in the listing.

2. The Company

One of the top pet peeves of interviewers is when candidates do not know much about the company. Interviewers want to know you’ve taken the time to research the company, and they want to know you’re truly interested in working for the organization.

The very least you can do is visit the company website. Most company websites will feature an “About Us” page. Read this first. The site will also likely have a “Products” and/or “Services” page. Read these, too. If the company is global, it may list its locations and the functions each performs.

The problem with company websites, however, is that the content they feature is all marketing content, engineered to paint the organization in the most positive light possible.

You’ll never get the whole truth about a company through its website, unless the company is publicly traded. In this case, the website will have annual reports that will reveal more objective information on financials, shareholder information, etc.

It’s a good idea to reach out to people you know in the company for more information about it, particularly the culture.

3. The Industry and Competition

Top candidates will know about the industry in which the company operates. This is information you can gather from labor market research websites, such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and O*Net OnLine. You can always turn to Google, too.

With sites like these, you can gather information on occupations, salaries, the skills employers are looking for, and available positions in your area. Glassdoor is a particular favorite among job seekers, as it features employees’ reviews of their own employers.

You can also check out SpyFu to learn about how an employer advertises and its intended audience. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are also useful as well.

As mentioned earlier, public companies are required to share press releases and annual reports. Read the documents of your potential employer’s competitors. If you can cite your desired company’s competition’s statistics, you will impress the interviewer very much.

Once again, it’s important to reach out to people who work in the company to which you’re applying. They will probably have a good sense of who the relevant competitors are based on the department you’re targeting.

4. The Interviewers

Finally, you’ll want to research the people who will be interviewing you.

If you have the names of said people ahead of time, the best tool is LinkedIn. Even if you don’t know the names of the people who will interview you, you can use the site’s “Companies” feature to find people in various departments.

For example, if you are applying for an accountant position, search the company using the keywords “accountant, manager.” You will see the company’s accountant managers.

Read through their profiles to see what you have in common with them. It could be that you attended the same school, you enjoy the same activities, you volunteered at similar organizations, or something else. During the interview, try to talk about what you learned about the interviewers when given the opportunity.

Not to sound like a broken record, but you really should reach out to someone you might know in the company to ask about the person or people who will be interviewing you. They may be able to give you great information about your interviewer’s likes and dislikes.


Researching the mentioned areas will put you an advantage over the other candidates. to show off your research, mention it explicitly. Begin sentences by saying, “While I was researching the competition, I learned …”.

Remember, when you’re prepared, you’ll do well in the interview.

Check back next week, when I’ll be talking about the importance of practicing for your interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com
Photo: Flickr, Rahul Panja
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Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

Interviewing for a job is tough, whether you’re actively or passively seeking. If it were so easy, people like me wouldn’t have to provide advice on how to interview. One of the challenges of the interview process is knowing yourself, really knowing yourself.

reflection

Before you even start the interview process, I’d like you to do a very simple exercise. Take it seriously, as it will give you a better sense of yourself and how you need to approach the interview process.

Some of you have done SWOT analysis at work, so you’re familiar with the concept. The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Below is a brief explanation of how a SWOT analysis is used in the work setting.

“SWOT analyses can serve as a precursor to any sort of company action, such as exploring new initiatives, making decisions about new policies, identifying possible areas for change, or refining and redirecting efforts midplan.” BusinessNewsDaily.com

SWOT

From the diagram above, you can see how to handle the four components of a SWOT analysis. Let’s go through all four components.

Strengths

When you analyze your strengths, think about the those that will help you for the position for which you’re applying. Try to address as many of them in the job posting you can. Further, think about how you can achieve at each one.

Here is a list of skills for a specific marketing specialist position:

1. Innovation. You have demonstrated innovative approaches to create marketing campaigns. You introduced one company for which you worked to paperless marketing, social media to another, and virtual tradeshows to your previous company.

2. Business to business marketing. You’ve done this successfully for many years. Included among many of your business partner are seven blue-chip companies.

3. Strategic Thinking. You’ve demonstrated the “ability to think strategically and analytically to ensure successful marketing campaign execution” and can come up with numerous times you’ve done this.

4. Cross-Functional Work. You’ve worked across multiple organizations, including engineering, sales, fiance, webdesign. You’ve demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills.

5. Understanding Customer Behavior. At your previous position, this was a large part of what you did. You worked with business development to determine the best way to target marketing efforts.

6. Strong written and verbal communication skills. You can prove this with the experience you’ve had communicating through written and verbal communications with the press, trade magazines, partners, and customers.

7. The Required Soft Skills. “Solid organizational and project management skills” and “attention to detail and demonstrated ability to multi-task.”

Try to think of at least 10 strengths that you can apply to this position and others.

Weaknesses

Be honest about listing your weaknesses. Determine how you can overcome these weaknesses, as it is important to demonstrate in an interview not only that you have weaknesses but also how you can overcome them.

1. Business to Customer. You have limited experience to this type of marketing, but you’ve shown the ability to interact well with consumers as a retail associate and, therefore understand their needs.

2. Working with Certain Departments. You have limited experience working closely with internal marketing analytics teams to define requirements for product test plans and campaign analysis.

Be honest with yourself and try to think of three or more weaknesses. 

Opportunities 

Opportunities can be anything that makes a job appealing, such as work-life balance, commute, increased income, opportunity for advancement, landing a job quickly.

Great Working Environment. From talking with people you know at the company, you know the company offers team unity, opportunity for advancement.

Work with Previous Colleague. Your previous boss and you got on very well when you were at Company X. You look forward to working with her again.

Your network is strong. This will provide you with many opportunities for a position like this one. You know people in management, as well as others who work there. Companies prefer to hire those they known, e.g., referrals.

The more examples of opportunities you can think of, the more positive you’ll feel about any jobs for which you apply.

Threats

Threats are factors that are difficult, if not possible, to overcome. These can be sticking points during an interview.

Education Requirement. You lack a Bachelor’s degree in what the company desires (Business, Economics, Marketing, Mathematics) and have no resources to acquire one. There is a loophole that says “or a related one.” Your degree in English has served you well in the past.

Experience. “Previous marketing internship experience” is a red flag. It appears that the company is looking for younger, less expensive candidates. Perhaps the company will consider a more experienced employee for the position, or they might develop a position more senior for you.

Some threats can be overcome with a little imagination. 


In the next post we look at the importance of research, research, research before the interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Torkel Pettersson

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

Succeeding at the interview begins before you sit in the hot seat. The first step is being mentally prepared. This means overcoming the negative feelings that came with losing your previous job.

Despondent

To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem. Even if you were let go simply because the company had to cut costs, you may feel like you’ve failed. Some of my clients feel responsible for being laid off, even though it wasn’t their fault.

It can be particularly devastating if you’re let go because of performance issues or because you didn’t see eye-to-eye with your manager. You may feel that you’re incapable of becoming again the productive employee you once were.

The same applies to having to quit under pressure. Your boss was constantly harping on you for small mistakes or accused you of missteps that you know were the correct actions. Because they’re the boss, though, they hold the power.

Many unemployed can’t let go of what went wrong. They lose sight of what they did well at work. Negative thoughts swim through their minds. What can a person do to get back on track?

1. Don’t deny your despondency

You may be experiencing feelings you’ve never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, a short temper with family members and friends, a lack of motivation. These feelings are symptoms of unemployment. You’re not going crazy.

When I was out of work, I tried to recognize the feelings I was experiencing. It wasn’t always easy, but I realized my unemployment was temporary. You should also realize your situation is temporary.

2. Take a hiatus

You’ve heard the saying, “Get back on the horse.” This is always a good idea, but you don’t have to do it immediately. I’ve known job seekers who have taken a week off to regroup and get their bearings again. While some might believe that you should begin your job search the day after you lose your job, it would be better to clear your mind first.

This said, don’t take a full-on vacation, as many job seekers do. Even during the seemingly slow summer months, employers are hiring. Take a hiatus, but don’t waste long periods of time.

3. Evaluate the situation; be able to explain why you’re out of work

Given three reasons why you are unemployed – you were laid off, let go, or quit – determine which applies in your situation. To be able to explain to others why you lost your job, particularly in an interview, you must be able to explain it to yourself.

If you were at fault, own up to it. Then, determine how you will act differently next time so as not to repeat the same mistake. Most likely you’ll have to explain, albeit briefly, your situation in an interview. Show self-awareness. This is a big step that you’ll need to make.

4. Tell people you’re out of work

walkingThere’s no shame in being out of work. Whenever I say this, I’m sure many job seekers mutter under their breath, “What would you know?”

Plenty. When I was unemployed, it wasn’t easy for me to tell others I had been laid off, even though it wasn’t my fault.

In order for others to help you, they need to know you’re looking for work. The people you tell shouldn’t be limited to your former colleagues and supervisors. They should include family, friends, and acquaintances. Even your brother who lives thousands of miles away might hear or read of an opportunity local to you.

5. Be willing to ask for and accept help

I find this to be one of the most challenging roadblocks for many people; they just can’t bring themselves to ask for help.

There are two things to remember here: One, your job search will be shorter if you have help; two, most people like to help those in need.

Helping others gives people a feeling of achievement. As someone out of work, you will experience the same, so pay it forward.

This isn’t to say you should approach everyone in you community and ask, “Do you know of any jobs for me?” To tell people you’re out of work and explain the kind of job you’re seeking should be enough.

For safe measure, you may want to ping people to stay top of mind. An occasional request like “Please keep your ear to the pavement for me” should suffice.

6. Don’t sleep the day away

As difficult it may be, you need to develop a routine. You don’t have to rise at 5 a.m. so you can go to the gym before work, but getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to take a walk, eat breakfast, and get out of the house would be much more productive than sleeping until 10 every morning.

You’ll feel much better if you are productive than you would if you rose late and watched television all day. I honestly believe that developing a routine is essential to your mental health – and to finding a job.

7. Seek professional help if necessary

You’ll probably experience many feelings, such as anger, fear, and self-doubt. If you become consumed with these feelings, it might be best to seek the help of a therapist. This is not unusual – trust me. I went through a plethora of feelings and, yes, I did talk with a professional. It allowed me to clear my mind.

If it gets to the point where you can’t see the future – where all you can think about are the past and present – this may indicate you’re experiencing depression. It’s worth talking to a therapist when you reach this stage.


It’s hard for some people to understand how difficult unemployment can be. It hurts your self-esteem, destroys your familiar routine, and can even cause embarrassment. Following the above steps can help you mitigate this negative experience.

Look for part 2, Know Thyself, next week.

Photo: Flickr, Silja
Photo: Flickr, David

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

10 ways that test your courage in the job search

Although I understand my workshop attendees’ reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get in an interview.

courage

They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.

“Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it.

You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other job seekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees.

I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most. But networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other job seekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.”

I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in mock interviews. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service.

But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. I remember being asked to participate in a mock interview years ago. I flatly refused. I lacked courage then.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your LinkedIn connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee.

Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.”

This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market.

Contact those companies with a networking email  to ask for networking meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of networking meetings. Otherwise known as informational interviews, networking meetings have been the reason for many of my job seekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them.

Once you’ve secured a networking meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional- and behavioral-based. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect.

How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.


Readers, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews.

To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

“Why did you leave your last company?” How to answer this question

And three possible scenarios. 

Why did you leave your last company?” is an interview question that can be a cinch for job candidates to answer or difficult, depending on the reason for leaving your position.

interview with womanAlways expect this question in an interview. It only makes sense that the interviewer would like to know why you left your last company. Were you laid off, let go, or did you quit. Those are the three possible scenarios.

How you answer this question—most likely the first one asked—will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Many people interviewing for the first time are surprised when they get this question. It’s as though they didn’t expect it.

Not only should you expect this question; you should have the answer to this question already formulated. It should not take you by surprise. Expect it. Be prepared. If you get it wrong, shame on you.

Also, be aware of a zinger like, “Steve, tell us why you want to leave (company X) and come to work with us?” To answer this two-part question successfully requires an in depth knowledge of the company and position. Both of which are topics for another article.

What are employers looking for?

Is there a wrong answer? Not really. It’s how you answer it, for the most part. There’s no way to change the past, so your calm response is the best policy. They want transparency, not lies. They also don’t want a drawn-out story; your answer should be brief.

If you become emotional, it will send a negative message to interviewers. If you hesitate, they may distrust you or question your resolve.

Three possible scenarios

Let’s look at the reasons why people lose their job and how to address them.

1. You were laid off

This is easiest way to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” As mentioned above, your answer should be short and sweet. You may say, “The company had to cut cost and restructure after a poor second quarter.”

To beat them to the punch, you might add, “I was among 15 people in my group who were laid off. I was told by my manager that she was sad to see me go.” The reason for doing this is because you might get a follow-up question about how many people were laid off.

Caveat: some people think being laid off is the same as being let go or fired. It is not. Being laid off is do to company failure.

2. You were let go

This is harder to explain, but not impossible to come up with a viable answer. This especially needs a short answer. It’s important that you are transparent and self-aware with your answer. In other words, if you were at fault, be honest about it.

You must also explain what you learned from the experience and state that it will not be repeated. Perhaps it was a conflict of personality between you and your manager, poor performance, or a “mutual departure.”

Conflict of personality. “A new manager took over our department. I was used to the way the previous person managed us. The new manager had a different style, which I didn’t adapt to quick enough. I now understand I need to be more adaptable to other types of management.”

Poor or inadequate performance. “As the project manager of my department, I was responsible for delivering a release of a new data storage software. We failed to meet the deadline by a week. My VP saw this as unexceptionable.  I see where I could have done a better job of managing the team.”

Caveat: the interviewer might want to dig deeper into the situation. Be prepared to answer the questions directly with little emotion. Always keep a cool head. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about your previous boss.

3. You quit or resigned

To quit a position—especially without a job in hand—means there was an existing problem. One common reason I hear for quitting is a conflict of personality with the employee’s supervisor. Another one is a toxic work environment. And a lame reason I hear is because advancement was not possible.

Regardless, a red flag will go up with interviewers if you quit your position. What some people don’t realize is that you give up your right to collect unemployment, if you quit; another reason why this is not a great scenario.

Conflict of personality. “My previous boss and I didn’t see things eye-to-eye on certain decisions he made, and tension was high, so I decided the best move for me was to resign. I realize I could done a better job of accepting his ideas.”

Unsafe environment. “I felt the work environment was not as safe as I was comfortable with. For example, there were many fire hazards in the warehouse. Additionally, the air quality was tested, and it failed. I feel fortunate that my wife brings in a substantial income; otherwise I might have stuck it out longer. My only regret is that I miss the people with whom I worked.”

Caveat: again, it is important to be transparent and honest when answering this question. To simply say you quit or resigned is not good enough. Do not be bitter when you answer this question; just state facts.


Always expect the question, “Why did you leave your last job.” Any interviewer who doesn’t ask this question isn’t doing his job. The reason for departure is essential information. I find this traditional question to be one of the most important ones for job candidates to able to answer.

3 steps to show employers what you CAN do in the future

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Employers don’t care about what you’ve done; they care about what you will do.” If you haven’t heard this, rest assured it’s the truth.

The Future

By conducting multiple interviews—including phone, one-on-one, group, Skype, you name it—employers are trying to determine how you can save them money, improve quality, increase revenue, improve productivity, and help the company in other ways.

Employers believe that if you’ve achieved multiple accomplishments relative to the position, you will repeat similar accomplishments. On the other hand, if your accomplishments are not relevant, you’re applying for the wrong position.

But it’s not only about the relevant accomplishments you’ve achieved. There are other factors that come into play when convincing employers that you’ll be valuable in the future. So what will you have to do in order to convince employers of your value?

1. Have the proper mindset

The first step in convincing employers that you’ll perform for them in the future is having the proper mindset. People who lack this mindset are like former jocks who talk about his glory days in high school. They are stuck in the past.

More importantly, people who lack this mindset can’t envision what they can do for companies in the future. They can’t see the big picture.

I recently gave a group of job seekers the challenge to tell me what their legacy will be from now until 2027; in other words, what will they have accomplished after 10 years. I asked them to think big picture.

A member in the group said one thing he will do is increase revenue by developing relationships with value added resellers (VARs).

I naturally asked him how he knows this. He told the group that he did it twice in the recent past and there’s no question that he’ll do it in the future. He spoke with confidence, knowing what he accomplished in the past can be repeated in the future.

Another member said she will improve communications for nonprofit organizations. She’ll coordinate events, manage social media, create content for the website. How, some of the group members asked. She’s done it in the past and is confident she’ll do it in the future.

2. Write about your future greatness on your résumé and LinkedIn profile

The language you use in your Performance Profile of your résumé is written in present tense because this is the section that initially states what you will bring to the employer.

Writing, “Consistently increase productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” tells employers you’ll do this at their company. Whereas, “Increased productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” doesn’t allude to the future.

You must also prioritize your statements by listing your outstanding accomplishments closest to the top of the résumé. The more relevant accomplishments you have on the first page is an indication of the value you’ll bring to the employer.

Notice the word “relevant?” Accomplishments that are relevant and include quantified results are an indication of future greatness.

Your LinkedIn profile Summary should tell a story of the passion you have for your occupation, as well as your value add. Because the profile is more generic and broader in scope than your résumé, you will include more recent accomplishments in the Summary. This is the first section employers will read, so make it pack a punch.

Heres a hint: the first line or two of your LinkedIn profile Summary should be a value statement, as the Summary of the new profile is truncated. You need to make the reader of your Summary want to read the rest of it.

3. Talk about your future greatness in interviews

Many interviewers are focused on the past; therefore, they don’t ask questions that ask about future success. It is up to you to provide answers that illustrate what you will do in the future. You must demonstrate that you are capable of future greatness.

You’re given the popular question, “Why should we hire you?” You must set the tone by delivering an opening statement that talks to the future.

Right: “I am a sales manager who consistently exceeds sales projections. I know you’re looking for the same performance, and I will deliver the performance you require.

Wrong: “I’ve been in sales for 20 years. My most recent job was as a manager.” The beginning of your answer doesn’t convey the fact that you are a sales manager and that you will exceed sales projections.

Many interviewers believe the best type of question is the behavioral-based, which gives you the opportunity to explain your past experience and how it will be repeated in the future. This is the premise behind this type of question.

What’s important in answering this type of question is assuring that your past behavior will be repeated in the future. Begin with a statement similar to, “Most recently, I performed (the following skill)…..” Then ending your answer with, “I will achieve the same accomplishments for you.”

Answer questions using behavioral-based ones whenever possible. Proof is what interviewers want to hear. Take the following traditional question.

“How do you define leadership?” Your reply is to say, “This is an excellent question. Can I give you an example or two how I’ve recently demonstrated leadership?” End your answer with, “Leadership comes easy to me, and I look forward to leading your finance team going forward.”


Using the what-I’ll-do-for-you-in-the-future approach in the job search can be particularly helpful for older job seekers who may falsely be judged as being past their prime.

From the conversation our job club had it is obvious that older workers can and will repeat what they’ve accomplished in the past, and perhaps more. Another member who said she’ll create transparency in the sales reporting process using CRM was convincing because she’s done it successfully in the past. As well, she spoke with confidence.

Photo: Flickr, Evelyne Erni

6 ways to interact with one of the most important people in the interview process

Receptionist

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:

  1. Smile, but don’t overdue it. You don’t want to come across as insincere.
  2. Extend your hand, especially if the office guardian is a female, and initiate eye contact.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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