What to Do Right Before Your Interview
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The Secret to That Awkward Pre-Interview Wait

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Articles on how to prep for an interview? Millions. Articles on what to do with that tense 10 minutes between arrival and meeting your interviewer? One. Right here.

You’ve got your finest professional-but-not-trying-too-hard look on lockdown. You’ve navigated traffic, found parking close enough to the building to avoid sweating on your walk, and stopped at the restroom before checking in at reception (you know, to avoid the uncomfortable sensation of full bladder pressure while trying to describe your work history). And...now what?

Here’s our best advice for the awkward reception area wait before your interview. We all know it too well.


Common advice urges you to arrive up to 20 minutes before the interview. As an interviewer, I’ve had people arrive 30 even 40 minutes early, but guess what? Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t impressed that you can show up before a meeting starts. In fact, it can be slightly awkward for us, especially if it’s an open office format or there isn’t a separate lobby (common in many of today’s workspaces). And worse, as Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of The Daily Muse recounts, you might run into the previous candidate coming out of their interview, feeling confident and looking sharp. Talk about throwing off your flow.

Definitely give yourself enough time to arrive 20 minutes before you’re scheduled, but instead of heading inside, post up nearby. Listen to music in your car, check your makeup, or take a stroll down the block. Play it cool by checking in just 5-10 minutes beforehand.


Because he or she is part of the team, too. My former colleague had a secret code with the front desk administrator. It was brilliant—If the candidate treated the receptionist with respect and courtesy, the woman would tell our HR colleague that, “The candidate is here to see you and is filling out an application.” If the interviewee seemed terse, disinterested, or arrogant, the receptionist would simply say, “The candidate is here to see you now” without mentioning the application. We found that our best hires were those who treated everyone well, especially those with less seniority, and this is true for many companies worldwide. Be aware that the decision process begins the moment you walk in the door, even when you don't think you're on stage, so to speak. {click to tweet}


Someone probably gave you this advice in college when you were studying for finals. You’ve spent days or weeks preparing for this, and you’re as ready as you can be. Don’t bother reviewing your resume or company notes during the five minutes you’re stuck in the lobby. You won’t suddenly discover the perfect answer to the “What are your weaknesses?” question. In fact, it will only stress you out.


Let’s be real—do we ever actually turn off our phones when asked, whether that's at movie theaters, religious ceremonies, or meetings? Hardly. So I won’t suggest you turn it off, just make it quiet. Upon arrival, switch it into silent mode before greeting the receptionist, and don’t look at it until you leave. I’m serious—keep that thing out of sight in front of the hiring manager! 

Now that you've taken your eyes away from the screen, why not observe your surroundings instead? How does it feel in the waiting area? What does the décor say about the company’s culture and history? Are there any interesting artifacts around you that you could bring up in the initial small talk with the interviewer? Focusing on making these observations has a calming effect (like meditation minus the closed eyes), and it also works to your advantage: the interview is an opportunity for you to screen the company as well, so use this downtime to do some sleuthing. Is this the kind of environment where you’d like to work? 


On your way out after your successful interview, don’t forget to say good-bye to your new best friend at the front desk!  

Want more interview advice? We've got a roundup right here.