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How to make a good impression at reception (because it matters)

Nov 05, 2018

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When your resume has beaten the bots and scored you an in-person interview, the initial face-to-face at the front desk may seem like an insignificant part of the whole interview process.  But when it comes to impressions, your first one actually begins at reception, and travels far beyond it.

Because the secret about receptionists is: They know a lot of the people who work at the company you want to work at, and they do a lot more than just receive you upon entry.

It doesn’t matter where you land on the professional totem pole, any negative or rude behavior will travel beyond the foyer, and into the ear of the executive you’re trying to impress.

"You may be in a senior level position and looking to meet with a senior level executive, but if you're impatient or rude with front office, it's a high possibility the negative behavior will be recounted far beyond the reception area," says Malvina Przybylak, Procom head office receptionist.

Take these tips into consideration to make a great first impression at reception.

Be early, but not too early

You should plan to arrive in the reception area no earlier than 10-15 minutes before your interview. This shows that you are organized and have good time management skills. People are busy, and odds are, whomever you're interviewing with is probably in a another meeting, and if you're too early, it can cause an uncomfortable waiting-game situation. And the receptionist may feel obliged to play the part of entertainer.

Smile

Regardless of how nervous or distracted you may be, you want to appear approachable and friendly. So, always make eye contact and flash your pearly whites when you introduce yourself and the reason you're there. Establishing a friendly rapport will also help ease any nerves. Plus, the receptionist may go the extra mile in trying to make you comfortable. This will relax you ahead of the interview.

State your business!

It's human nature to introduce yourself by name when you first meet someone, but in an interview intake, you also want to state the person you're there to see and the time you're meeting. A typical receptionist is probably multi-tasking at all times; it's very hopeful to be clear and concise. If you appear frazzled upon arrival and unsure of the person you're meeting with, reception may assume that you aren't very organized or that interested in meeting the hiring manager. 

Don't engage with your phone

Before you walk through reception, put your phone on vibrate and keep it out of sight. Even if front desk is on a call or assisting someone else, resist the urge to scroll. It can appear dismissive or rude to be staring at your phone while interacting with someone-- even if you're waiting to be recognized.

Read company literature instead (but keep it neat)

Because you're phone is put away, you have the opportunity to pick up any corporate literature or magazines the company may display. Not only does this show interest, it will also help you bide your time. However, don't leave the area untidy, as the receptionist doesn't have to tidy up after them.

Be aware

There's nothing wrong with a little small talk, but you should also be aware of the receptionist's time. So, it's important to not interrupt his or her workflow. Some candidates might feel the need to make small talk, and while a little is polite - weather, traffic etc.,  the receptionist will be completing other tasks, so be mindful. Instead of lingering for conversation, exchange a few pleasantries and take your seat.

Avoid negative comments

If the hiring manager is running late, don't make disparaging remarks to the receptionist-- even as a joke. It will be considered rude and you won't come across very likable.

Don't dictate demands

You may be parched or in need of caffeine, but the polite thing to do is to wait until it's offered. Some offices offer coffee, tea or water to people waiting in the reception area. Others do not. Let the receptionist ask you if there's anything they can get you. You never want to assume it's a service they can provide and demand it. Also, if you jump the gun by asking first, you could risk offending the receptionist who may think his or her manners/job duties are being questioned.

Say goodbye!

Whether you think you nailed it or lost it ( sometimes you just can never tell!) always smile and say goodbye to reception. Leaving on a positive note is always preferable to leaving front desk with a negative impression.

The reception area is just stage one of your first interview; these tips will help leave the type of impression that gets you to the next round.

Are you working with a staffing agency to find your next IT job? 

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