Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Interview Tip

A few years ago, while gunning for a position in a technology company, I tried a new tactic for approaching an interview. Long story short, qualifications among all the candidates were equal. I learned after I was awarded the job that my new tactic made me stand out from the pool.

Here it is:

Tip 1: Arrive at said interview an hour early.

Why? What will that do for me?

The obvious first. Being early to an interview shows that you're punctual and can keep an appointment. Arriving even one minute late may cost you the chance at a hire. Being way too early naturally generates an awkward curiosity among your new potential associates.

Early arrival also shows that your thoughtful enough to plan ahead and allow yourself extra time, just in case you something would happen - you might get lost, break down with car trouble, or even find yourself stuck in traffic. You've prepared for the worst, and lucked out.

So now your there - an hour early - and it might be a little uncomfortable. Good!

Here's the real advantage: It affords you the opportunity to sit and observe the company's culture. Remember that interviews are a two way street. They're checking you out - you should be checking them out as well.

While you wait, look for things like this:
  1. Do people make an effort to come talk to you or do they just give you weird looks?
  2. What are people wearing?
  3. How quickly are people moving around the office? Are they intense or relaxed?
  4. What's the background noise? Office chatter? Laughing? Arguments? Silence?
  5. What is the average age of employees? Does it look like a wide range?
Most importantly: If they have a receptionist, strike up a conversation. Find out what he or she likes and dislikes about the job. Ask about how he or she came to the company. Be genuinely interested in a conversation.

What do you have to loose? It may be that after your interviewer sees you out, they may ask the receptionist about their impression of you.

Wouldn't you want the company's gatekeeper in your corner?

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