7 Critical Observations to Make While Waiting to Interview

Virtually every career advisor will say you should arrive 10 to 20 minutes early to an interview to prove you can keep an appointment, have time to fill out paperwork, wipe that bit of cream cheese off your lip, fix your hair and all kinds of other stuff that will help you make a good first impression.

But remember that the interview is just as much about whether the opportunity would be a good fit for you as it is whether you would be a good fit for the opportunity.


“While the total suite boasts more than 10,000 square feet in usable space, the majority of employees sit alongside teammates at long French farmhouse tables without dividers,” Anderson says. “While I watched people wheel over from space to space to ask each other questions, and even to hold brief team meetings, I knew the open environment was meant to foster the collaboration necessary to do good work.”

5. Walls. Are they adorned with …

— Employee recognition? This observation can suggest how the firm values its personnel.

— A mission statement? A mission statement can help you understand a firm’s values and what they expect from their employees. “Our logo, which includes the tagline ‘Be Brilliant,’ is displayed throughout the building,” says Dominique Jones, vice president of human resources at talent management solutions provider Halogen Software. “Prospective employees know right away that this is a fundamental part of who we are as a company and if they are to work for us, we will expect them to be their very best  brilliant, in fact.”

— Awards? You may notice recognition for sales performance, social responsibility or diversity. These are integral cues that can help you learn if your values and goals align with the hiring firm’s.

6. Employee dynamics. While the physical environment can provide great insight, remember that its architecture is often carefully preconceived to convey a specific message.

By contrast, “the way people treat each other can’t be staged,” says Karen Cates, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “Do people look at each other? Are smiles strained and put on or real? Are jokes routine and dull or personal and warm? Are [employees] considerate in the common areas?”

Similarly, evaluate whether employees are all wearing headphones and glued to their screens, indicating a more intense or independent culture, versus employees engaged in collaboration, laughter or even gamesImageImageImageImageImage

7. Employee dress. Depending on your personal style, keep on the lookout for office attiredefined by T-shirts, sneakers and denim versus collars, wingtips and blazers.

One last note: Some hiring firms may have you wait in an area that obstructs your ability to make these observations. In that case, consider asking to use the bathroom. That can provide the critical mobility you need to check everything out before your focus is directed at the interviewer.


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