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What People See When You Think No One is Watching

Working at the front desk of Engineering Career Services allows me to have a front-row seat to recruiting season. And while I do my best to make sure that no one goes into an interview with a crooked tie, a flipped collar, or a piece of toilet paper stuck to their shoe,  I can’t fix everything. I’d like to offer some common sense advice on ways to make sure that you don’t sink your interview before it’s even begun.

  1. Be early. It’s the most important thing you can do to make sure that the first thing a recruiter sees is you looking calm, cool, and collected. Planning to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early allows you to not rush (few things are worse than sitting in a small room with someone who just ran in a suit), to check yourself in a mirror to make sure everything’s where it should be, and to speak with the company’s greeters. Sometimes companies have paperwork to fill out before your interview, and arriving early allows you to finish.
  2. Pay attention to your body language.  Listen to your mother. Remember when she told you not to slouch? You don’t need to have marine-level ramrod straight posture—but you should look alert and most importantly, awake. If you are slouching (or worse, sleeping) when the recruiter comes through the lobby, the impression you will be giving is that you would rather be somewhere else. Trust me on this: they don’t appreciate that. In addition to posture, pay attention to what your body language is saying about you. Are you sitting with your arms folded? Twirling your hair?  
  3. Use hand sanitizer if you blow your nose. No matter what your personal feelings are about the overuse of sanitizers, use them if they are available. This is especially important during autumn recruiting season, which happens during the beginning of cold and flu season. No recruiter wants to wonder if they’re going to walk away with avian death flu after shaking your hand. Best idea? Blow your nose in the restroom where it’s a) out of sight and b) you can wash your hands.
  4. Use the wait time to brush up on the company. Do not play Angry Birds in the lobby. In fact, your phone should be off before you enter the building until after you leave: not on vibrate, not on low, but completely powered down. Don’t kid yourself that no one will notice the vibration. Also, do not have phone conversations in the lobby while you are waiting! If you must take a call while you are waiting (and remember, your phone shouldn’t even be on!), go outside to answer. Playing with your phone gives the impression that you are bored, and recruiters don’t want to see that.  Also, leave the laptop at home. If a recruiter has to wait for you to pack up your things when they come to get you, it will give them the impression that you aren’t prepared.
  5. Be careful what you say in lobby. Don’t let yourself get too relaxed with your fellow interviewees or the company’s greeters. Conversations with both are fine, but avoid talking about last night’s party, troubles with significant others, negative comments about past interviews/employers, or any other subject that is too personal and/or negative. Keep conversations with greeters focused on the company and its culture. Conversations with fellow students should not get too loud, and never say anything that you wouldn’t say to your boss.

Just remember that if you are outside of your own home, it’s likely that someone is watching you. Don’t let your lobby presence be what stays in the interviewer’s mind!

“[T]ake care, when you are closely observing, that you are not closely observed.” - Terry Pratchett

About the author

Laura Little

Laura Little previously worked at the ECS front desk.