The Art of Waiting in Style Before an Interview

Julia Zielke Etiquette, Interviews Leave a Comment

Waiting is as easy as pie, right? Think twice, because twiddling thumbs, biting nails and sweaty palms can easily get the best of you in those crucial 10-15 minutes before a job interview. You will be surprised to learn how many top executives carefully observe how you wait and what conclusions they draw from that. But don’t fret: waiting well lies in your hands. Read on to learn about how to perfection the art of waiting in style.

It is a common mistake to think that the job interview begins when you shake the interviewer’s hand. The first, personal impression you make is when you set foot into the company’s building. Were you friendly to the receptionist? Did you look anxious, distracted or sleep deprived?

A receptionist’s observations can be a deciding factor when a manager is on the fence about a hiring decision. CEO and career expert Andy Ory estimates that 5% to 10% of the manager’s final decision depends on how a candidate has waited in the lobby. But it is not only the receptionist that can have a say in whom to hire: “Smart recruiters ask for feedback from the travel agent, the driver from the car service that picked you up at the airport, and the admin that walked you around all day,” Rusty Rueff, an industry leader, explains.

To avoid any waiting related blunders, here are four Dos and Don’ts for the next time you find yourself restless at reception.

4 DOs before the interview

  1. You are on stage: smile!

It is common sense that you should always be nice to others. But in a situation as stressful as an interview, saying “thank you” can quickly be forgotten. So remember, friendly small talk with the receptionist can go a long way and puts you in the right mood for meeting your future boss.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the company

While you are at it, follow Shannon Moham’s advice and ask the receptionist for company-related reading material, such as newsletters and brochures. This is a great way of showing your interest in the company’s culture and products.

  1. Read the right things

If there is no company-related material to gloss through, then reading the newspaper can be a smart move. But be warned, because your choice of newspaper might reveal more about yourself than you would expect; and so whether you pick up the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times could unwantedly disclose how conservative you are, Christoph Kühnhanns, a career adviser, suggests in his book.

  1. Freshen up

You never know how long a job interview or an assessment will take. To avoid embarrassing bathroom breaks, make sure to use the lavatory before the interview. Seize the opportunity to check if you have anything between your teeth, if your nails are clean and if your hair looks like it did when you stepped out the house. Looking a bit pale? – Pinch your cheeks for a refreshed look.

4 DON’Ts before the interview

  1. Stay away from your phone

The lobby is not a place to fiddle with your phone. Having your eyes glued to your blackberry can quickly give off a disinterested and unprofessional vibe. Make sure to check your emails, call your friends and update your social media well before the interview. (And, please, please, don’t forget to put your phone on silent, not vibrate, silent!)

  1. Don’t rehearse

Preparation is important but it is equally important not to over-prepare. Rehearsing the “perfect answer” before an interview can later come across as unauthentic and staged. “You want to know your stuff, but remember your interview is a conversation. Trust that you know what you know, and that the interview will take on a flow of its own,” Deborah Shane, a career expert, recommends.

  1. Posture, posture, posture

It is great if you can feel comfortable in a stressful situation, but remember: you are not watching TV in your favourite armchair. Maintaining good body posture is key to confident body language. But as your mind rattles through your CV, your body can all too easily slouch into the company’s comfy leather couch. Sitting with a straight back and relaxed shoulder can simply be forgotten in a usually eventless waiting situation.

  1. Don’t forget to breathe

As stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are shooting through your body, it is crucial to not let them get the best of you. To fight ruminating thoughts and restless behavior, psychology professor Ewan Gillon recommends calming your nerves through simple breathing exercises (count each breath until you reach 10, then repeat). To control your ‘inner game’, as Gillon calls it, repeating a silent mantra like “I belong here, I can do this” (sounds silly, but it does wonders!). This can significantly boost your confidence and help you make your wait worth while.


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