A job interview is your big chance to show off your skills and pursue your dream career. While it can be stressful, acing it is a lot easier when you show up prepared — even for the inevitable curve ball questions that interviewers love to throw at applicants.
What you may not realize, however, is that the interview doesn't start when you sit down with the person asking all the tough questions.
As soon as you walk in the door, your behavior is being judged.
Here's how to make a great impression right from the get go.
Waiting room etiquette matters
"While in the waiting room, there is generally a receptionist or secretary who is watching, and he/she could be the one to tell the decision maker about you," said Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, a business etiquette consulting firm.
"It’s important to stay on your toes and be on your best behavior."
While it can be nerve-wracking to sit in the chair as you wait to get called back for your interview, you can relax a little if you follow these steps.
Make your phone disappear
Being on the phone while waiting in the lobby can annoy people who are working or talking nearby. It is also unprofessional.
Your best bet is to keep your phone turned off and out of sight during the interview process.
At the very least, "silence your cell phone," Whitmore said.
Be polite and courteous to everyone —starting with the receptionist
Politeness matters in job interviews. You need to show off your good manners to everyone you encounter, from the person who opens the door for you to anyone who sits next to you in the waiting room.
Whitmore said job seekers should be "polite to the receptionist and others around you." The person who interviews you may very well ask the receptionist for their impression of you, so don't be rude.
"Sit up straight and make a little small talk with the receptionist, but don’t be too chatty or distracting," Whitmore said. "Accept coffee, tea or water if it is offered to you."
Secretaries and receptionists know the company culture well and can be a good source of information if they aren't busy and are willing to engage in some friendly conversation. Take the chance to make a connection.
Observe the office vibe while you wait
Your interview isn't just about convincing the company to hire you. It's also a chance for you to see if the company is a good fit so you don't wind up hating it there, even if the position sounds great.
A study published in the International Review of Management Marketing in 2014 found that an employee's perception of organizational culture has a major impact on job satisfaction. Sitting in the waiting room gives you a golden opportunity to observe comings and goings and get insight into how the business operates.
What should you look for? "Pay attention to the employees you don't get to meet — the people who are sitting at their desks, walking around the facility and meeting in conference rooms," Forbes wrote.
"You can spot important clues about corporate culture if you listen to snippets of their conversations and you will learn a lot about the culture. Is it friendly and casual, or 'strictly business?' Read their body language. Are the employees relaxed, or tense?"
The info you get from watching as you sit in the waiting room before your interview could be the key to deciding if you want the job!
Wait time isn't down time — use it to practice answers while you cool your heels
Hopefully, you have done a lot of preparation in advance so you are ready to answer common interview questions, like your strengths and weaknesses, why you want to work there or where you see yourself in five years.
You should have your answers ready, but there's no reason not to go over them one more time while you wait. If nothing else, it will give you something to do while you're not on your phone!
Try a technique pro athletes use to calm your nerves
Still nervous? Visualization can help. Athletes use this powerful mental technique to train for competition, and it is easily adapted to the workplace.
Visualization can "be harnessed in a positive direction to get what you want from an interview," Lynn Joseph, vice president of outplacement firm Parachute, told Monster.
Job seekers who pictured themselves exhibiting confidence and being in control during the interview have been found to exhibit reduced stress levels and to receive better evaluations, Scientific American reported.
Since you're just killing time anyway, take a moment to imagine how awesome you'll be once the interview finally begins.
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