May 24, 2021

A job interview starts when you enter the building

7 min read

Recently we’ve provided a number of insights about job interviews, including navigating panel interviews and how to feel confident going into an interview.  In this article, we want to talk about the peripheral elements of a job interview that when combined, can make a big difference. First and last impressions count, and you never know who you’ll run into before and after the actual interview. Here’s some easy ways you can nail the job interview from start to finish.

Preparing for interview day

Preparation is key to a successful interview. An employer will be able to tell fairly quickly if the interviewee has done the prep or if they are winging it. And ultimately, preparation is about giving yourself justice when the meeting starts.

Being prepared can be broken down into a number of elements:

  • Homework on the job role and its requirements.
  • Writing out and planning answers to likely situational questions.
  • Preparing some questions to ask.
  • Establishing your transport plan to the interview (allowing enough time in case a bus is late or parking is tight).
  • Learning a bit about the company you’re visiting.
  • Confirming who’ll be attending the interview (chat to the recruiter or hiring manager about this).
  • Having a clear idea as to your goals and ambitions – short, medium and long term.

Once you’ve squared away some of the interview homework and logistics, there’s one more thing you should think about:

Dressing for success

It’s a cliché, sure. And in 2021 the workforce is far more casually dressed when compared to 20 years ago. But there’s still merit in dressing in a way that communicates you’re taking the opportunity seriously. Avoid overly casual shoes or untidy clothing. A good rule is to dress simple but neatly.

The role you’re applying for has some bearing on what you should dress like as well. For example, a junior developer should aim for tidy, neat clothing but not lose too much sleep if they don’t own a luxury corporate wardrobe. For a role that’s either more senior or requires a lot of meetings, customer and stakeholder relationships, there may be an expectation on someone who isn’t just capable at the job, but represents the company well through their personal presentation.

As we mentioned, 2021 is a somewhat confusing time for corporate fashion. You can get some hints by checking out the company’s website people page, social media or even asking a recruiter.

If in doubt, there’s far less risk to your chances of presenting well by overdressing than there is by underdressing.

Entering the building

You’ve made your way to the location of the interview. As you walk through the doors, you are now officially starting the job interview. A building foyer or lobby is full of activity and there’s a good chance someone from the company you’re interviewing for may be around. In some instances you may even be catching the elevator with someone in your job interview. While this isn’t often the case, it does happen; your mindset and manner should take this into account. Simply remain polite, feel free to make light conversations and avoid any personal phone calls or antisocial body language.

Greeting reception

This is the moment where many people truly feel the nerves of a job interview; the doors of the lift open into a reception area where the signage of the company greets you along with someone at reception or potentially an electronic sign in system.

Whoever you first meet in reception, consider them one of the people interviewing you. Receptionists can meet hundreds of people a day and in some organisations are asked for their impressions of candidates.

While it may be natural to quickly state who you’re seeing, don’t forget to greet the person and ask them how they are going. This is a good rule in general – not just in a job interview!

Then, simply state the manager you’re there to see (your preparation earlier will ensure you have the name to hand if needed!) and for what time. Otherwise the electronic sign in system will notify the hiring manager by email.

Waiting for the interview

It’s a good idea to turn up 5 minutes before the start of an interview to make sure you are waiting for the hiring manager and not the other way around. As you sit in reception, go through some of your notes about the role, your experience, goals etc – the key things you want to get across in the conversation.

Then take a look around at the activity within the reception area – you’ll likely see and hear things that give you a sense for the energy of this company. You might even get into a conversation with someone who works there. While this might seem minor, being able to pick up on the company culture in some brief observation can help you approach the interview in a more attuned way. At the very least, you’ll get some small talk to break the ice by noticing a great view, a piece of artwork or values written on the wall.

That 5 minutes is far better spent preparing that catching up on social media – trust us!

Meeting the hiring manager

As you meet the hiring manager, it’s important to not let nerves get in the way of a natural friendly greeting. Make sure you shake hands, smile and look them in the eye. Don’t get too wrapped up in saying too much here – you’ve got the entire interview to talk about yourself. Instead you might want to drop in a friendly ice breaker like we mentioned above. Or why not ask them a question instead? How is their week going? We learn the most by asking and listening so this is an opportune time to pick up on any extra information about the company you’re meeting.

The hiring manager will bring you into a meeting room at which point you’ll meet any other people attending. Again, greet each person individually and repeat their name back (“Hi, Tim”) to try and make this stick.

If you’ve brought some notes with you, don’t be afraid to lay this out in front of you for easy access. Just ensure these notes are more prompts for you vs. verbatim answers otherwise the interview could become a bit unnatural!

The interview

Now it’s time for the conversation. The good news is that by the time this starts, all the preparation and anticipation is done – you can simply talk about the role and your experience. We have some excellent insights around job interviews in our articles section and resources, so be sure to check these out!

After the interview

As things come to a close, it’s time to confirm next steps. You’ll usually get a timeframe in terms of the next stage and finding out if you’ve been shortlisted. If not, feel free to ask this.

Make a point of saying goodbye to each person in the interview, as well as the person on reception as you leave.

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the interview! Remember, as long as you’re still in the building, you need to remain professional. One of the more common mistakes we encounter is when candidates get on the phone to friends or family while still exiting – you never know who is around listening. Make sure to hold off any conversations like this until you’re out of earshot of anyone who might be around.

If you’re working through a recruiter like Absolute IT, we’ll touch base and find out how it all went. We’ll also be able to facilitate the next stages and of course line up other opportunities.

As you reflect on the interview and indeed the job opportunity, some questions may come to mind that you’d like to ask. This is of course fine, and we’d suggest combining a courtesy email thanking the hiring manager for their time along with 1-2 pressing questions about the role.

Whether you’re successful or not, reflection on the process is important. The more interviews you do, the better and more relaxed you’ll usually become. Like anything, practice makes perfect.

Want to know more about the job interview process?

Talk with our team about how you can nail job interviews, plus get access to some of the best IT opportunities in New Zealand.

Further reading

Absolute IT