The Interview Starts in the Parking Lot!

Picture this:

You arrive early for your 2:00 pm interview.   You pull up to the visitors parking of the company where you are to be interviewed.  While still in your car, you primp, comb, touch up and check to make sure your pearly whites are indeed white.  You get out of your car and you tuck, button, zip and make final garment adjustments before you lock the car and begin your approach to the lobby.

Unbeknownst to you, somebody behind the reflective glass of the building is watching you – not intentionally, but by mere coincidence.   It is probably someone in HR since this department is usually located near the front lobby. They take notice of you “getting yourself together” before the interview.

Or how about this:  You are early for a 1:30 interview so you decide to sit in your car in the company parking lot and make a call to your ex-wife regarding the weekend arrangements with the kids.  You and she disagree on something and the conversation starts to heat up, your voice raises and perhaps your language gets a bit strong. In the meantime, the VP of HR (whom you have never met) and who is the one interviewing you at 1:30 is returning from lunch, walks by your car and hears part of your conversation.

The interview also starts in the lobby!

Here’s another situation to consider: You arrive on time for your 3:00 interview with the President from ABC Company.  The receptionist asks for your name and the reason for your visit and requests that you sign in.  You oblige, but act aloof and disinterested.  She asks if you would like a cup of coffee or water and you say “no.”

A few minutes later, the receptionist receives a call from the President’s secretary that he is going to be late.  She informs you of the time delay and you question her as to the cause for the delay, for which she has no explanation.

Sitting in the lobby, you begin to fidget and let out a few sighs. You feel frustrated that you are kept waiting.  Just then, the President’s secretary comes out to greet you and apologizes.  You break into smiles and assure her that the wait was not an inconvenience at all.

A few days later, as you are talking to someone in your network about the company, you learn that the receptionist of ABC Company is the President’s daughter, who is working there part-time for the summer. You feel a pang of anxiety, and wonder if she noticed your curt behavior when you were in the lobby waiting to be interviewed by her father.

These are all real life scenarios that I have lived through with my clients, or have had company representatives mention to me when we have conversed about the behaviors of candidates.

So the moral of the story is this: As a candidate for a key position, it is very important that you realize that you are in someone’s line of sight all the time. Realize too, that even the most inconsequential interaction with someone could prove to be significant.  Everything you do and say is scrutinized.  Don’t think for a minute that it is not.

The job market at the executive level is challenging enough with so many dynamics happening that are beyond our control. Don’t be disqualified as a candidate just because you presented a “less-than-perfect” self in your attitude, or in the way you interacted with others.  These are the things you can control.  Start today with a new awareness and cognizance of your behavior, and you may find a difference in the rate of progress you are making in your job search!

Susan Howington, Founder and CEO, Power Connections Executive Career Management and Coaching Services