Interview Tip: Gather Intel While You Wait

Upon graduating from summer school, you’ll likely step into the job market. And while crafting compelling resumes and submitting online applications has never been easier, the interview process remains unchanged for the most part. It’s still awkward and it’s still nerve-wracking.

Think about what you did in the waiting room before your last interview, or discovery meeting with a potential client. Of course, if you’re like most people, you probably pored through your notes or distracted yourself by scrolling through Instagram.

Interview Tips 

Tim Hurson, author of Never Be Closing, encourages you to consider that being in your clients’ space affords you the best possible opportunity to get to know who you’ll be meeting. Moreover, he argues that their reception and common areas are habitats, filled with clues about the company, its culture and the people you’ll be meeting. Furthermore, he offers some questions you should ask the receptionist or other available employees in the waiting room:

  • How long has the company been at this location (or on this floor)? What was the reason for the move?
  • How many people work here? What kinds of jobs do they do? This can often lead to great follow-up conversations. If the location has both engineering and marketing in it, for example, you can observe that that’s an unusual combination. Any reason for that?
  • What’s the biggest department or division in this location?
  • Is everyone always this (relaxed, friendly, energized, busy) around here, or is something special going on today?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • Are the principals usually around, or mostly on the road? Do you get to see or talk to them much?

Hurson says that these are the kinds of questions you can work into almost any conversation and which can provide you with useful ways to make connections later in your meeting. 

Imagine in your meeting with your prospective client being able to say something like, “I understand you’ve only been in this location for 18 months and you’re already bursting at the seams. Sounds like things are going well. Must be challenging to manage that kind of growth.”. . . Sure, you’ve done research online and with your colleagues, but where better to begin to truly understand the people you’ll meet than where they spend the majority of their working—and waking—lives?

In the end, physically being in space exposes you to information and resources that simply aren’t available in company reports or on the internet. You simply have to be curious (and make friends with the reception desk).