Receptionist Georgia Enty routinely calls me when I have a visitor arrive for an appointment. I usually tell her I will be right out to greet the guest, but one day she told me to take my time. When I arrived in the lobby, she and the guest were deeply engaged in an animated conversation I was reluctant to interrupt.
When I brought the guest back to the lobby, he and Georgia finished their conversation. Later that afternoon, Georgia told me he was the most impressive job applicant ever to visit the office. This unexpected third-party endorsement carried considerable weight as we determined if the candidate would be invited back for a follow-up interview. He eventually received an offer and landed a job at the agency.
Moral to this story: Treat everyone with respect during every aspect of the job search. Georgia notes that a majority of applicants politely introduce themselves, but sit quietly on the couch as they await their interviews. By the way, in her experience, male applicants generally are more talkative than women. Georgia isn’t necessarily looking for a prolonged dialogue, but those who share relevant small talk are showing her respect that she notices and appreciates.
Besides properly greeting people, perhaps these additional 12 tips for job interview etiquette will help you navigate the interview process from door to door.
1. Do not over-caffeinate before the interview
It speeds up your conversation and often makes you come off as overly nervous.
2. Arrive 10 minutes early
Better to sit in the lobby and wait than be late. Use the extra time to practice mental relaxation exercises and dry sweaty hands. Do a test run prior to the day of the appointment if you have not been there before. One applicant last year was nearly an hour late for an interview, so she only managed to meet one of the three people scheduled to interview her. She did not get the job.
3. Dress for the occasion
Even if you have been told it is a business casual environment, dress a level above what is expected.
4. Do your homework
Study the firm’s website so you become familiar with the business. I quickly dismissed an applicant after she said she always wanted to work for an ad agency, clearly missing the point she was interviewing with a public relations firm.
5. Assume everyone you encounter may have a vote in the hiring process
Georgia proved that point.
6. Make solid eye contact
Smile with your eyes when you greet people.
7. Ensure a firm handshake
Practice with family and friends because you do not want to crush anyone’s hand. An overly firm handshake, however, is rare.
8. Sit up straight
Good posture says you are paying attention and showing respect.
9. Engage the interviewer in conversation
Do not wait for them to ask all the questions.
10. Be prepared with thoughtful questions
Be ready to be asked the proverbial final question: “So what questions do you have for us?” A memorable question will stand out and let them know you cared enough to study up on their business.
11. Jot down the names of all people you meet
I have often asked candidates whom they have already met, and I am amazed with how many cannot recall the names of people who had just interviewed them. When the interview is arranged, be sure to ask for a list of people you are going to meet and their titles. And be sure to do a Google search on each of them, which will help you engage in conversation.
12. Send follow-up notes
It is okay to send via email, but hand-written notes get the most attention.
This post also appears in the current issue of FORUM, the publication of the Public Relations Student Society of America.