Why the Secretary Is Part of the Interview, Too

The way you handle yourself away from the hiring manager matters.

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Michael Wade
Hello. It is a pleasure to meet you. I'm glad we were able to find a convenient interview time so quickly.

Let me explain how this process works. You were waiting in the reception area for around five minutes. You arrived a little early and scored a few points for that. (You'd be surprised at how many applicants show up late for interviews and how many don't appear at all, so I appreciate your beating the clock.)

During that five-minute period, you were being observed by my secretary. That might not seem to have been an important stage in the selection process, but believe me, it can be. Why? Because after we've completed this formal interview and you've departed, I'll ask the secretary and perhaps the receptionist as well for their opinions. If they note that you seemed a little nervous, that's fine. If they say that you were quiet and polite, that's great. But if they report that you were rude, condescending, or unprofessional in any way, that's a problem. A very big problem. And you can bet that it will sit in the back of my mind when I review your answers to my structured interview questions.

I'm not expecting you to charm the staff. (Be a tad too familiar and that also sets off alarm bells.) I do, however, expect courteous, friendly, and respectful behavior. Most of us don't care for people who kiss up and kick down. That's why the way you treat my staff and, if we go to lunch, the server in the restaurant may be more important than your ability to write a great strategic plan.

And by the way, no one ever lost points for saying, "Thank you," to the secretary on the way out.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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