Interview Etiquette: Notes from the Reception Desk

By, Erica Horning

200316557-001 I’ve been working at Clarity as the Front Office Manager for about four months. It’s a busy job. I am responsible for payroll, invoicing, parsing resumes, creating profiles, administrative office duties, answering high volume phone lines—the list could go on! But maybe most importantly, I am the first person candidates see when they walk through the door. You would be surprised by the number of people who forget that the interview starts the moment you enter the building. Like I said before, it’s only been four months. But already, I feel like I’ve seen it all!
A plethora of articles have been written on interview etiquette. What to say: “Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today.” What not to say: “I hated my boss, so I flipped on him in front of the whole office. He totally deserved it! It was epic.” How to talk about your resume: “This role taught me how important it is in any position to pay close attention to the finer points.” What to wear: “Suit, jacket, and button-down shirt. And remember, iron the entire outfit!” But what about the time before and after your actual interview? It is crucial. It can make or break a call back opportunity. So here are a few things I’ve observed that I’d like to share with all interviewees.

The Arrival. It happens to all of us. We leave the apartment with more than enough time to get to our big interview or meeting. Then the train is running 20 minutes late, someone spills their coffee all over your white blouse, and there is not a single free taxi in a 10 block radius. Panic sets in. We know how it feels; we’ve all been there. But don’t just show up 20 minutes late. All you have to do is give us a call and say, “I am so sorry, but the train is running late. I will be there in 15 minutes!” Our response? “Take your time! We’ll see you soon.”

The Door. I used to absolutely dread this part of any first round interview. How is it that every single door in Manhattan has a different mode of entry? Just take a deep breath, and be observant. Is there a button? Is there a sensor that automatically opens the door? Is there a sign that says “Push” or “Pull” on the door? Try the door gently. If it doesn’t open, take a step back and look around a bit. Chances are you’ll figure it out in about 3 seconds if you just stay calm.

The Receptionist. That’s me! If you want to make a good impression, say hello with a smile! Introduce yourself. Tell me what you’re here for and who you are meeting with. So many times, whether it is nerves or anxiety or pre-interview jitters, candidates will walk up to my desk with a blank face and say….nothing. Don’t freeze up. If you’re warm and personable, I will convey that to the person you are about to meet with, and your interview will be off to a great start! If you give me an attitude or are rude, I am going to let them know that as well.

The Paperwork. It’s a drag, we know. But it’s part of the process. So take your time, pay attention to directions, and be thorough! If someone fills out the paperwork the right way the first time, I am blown away. Sounds so basic, right? It’s true; the tax forms are complicated and have a goofy format. Mistakes happen, and we miss stuff. We are very understanding. But if I have to point it out 4 times and ask you to date in the same place….you get what I mean. If you take your time and read it over, you will make a great impression when it’s all filled out correctly the first time.

The Exit. Ending on the right note is hugely important because you want to leave a good impression. Be genuine in expressing your gratitude for the time the interviewer spent with you. If they don’t offer (which most places will), ask for a business card of the people you met during that day’s visit. Acknowledge the receptionist and other office team members that helped you earlier. Smile, thank them, and wish them a great day. Sincere friendliness is truly refreshing!
The Follow-up. After you leave, send a thank you note or e-mail to your main point of contact. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and that you look forward hearing from them. And leave it at that. If you write a thank you note, e-mail two days later “just checking in,” and then give a phone call the next three days in a row, it’s a little bit overkill. Be patient! There are a million things on that person’s desk to take care of in the next 20 minutes. If you do not hear anything back, it is appropriate to follow up ONE more time, a week later. If you still hear nothing, you can safely assume that your time and energy would be better spent pursuing other opportunities.
All in all, the most important thing to remember during the pre and post-interview time is to be personable and professional. Stay in interview mode before and after the interview, keeping in mind that you never know with whom you are interacting. It’s very simple: If you are positive and pleasant, it will go a long, long way!