Think your job interview only begins when you shake hands with your interviewer? You might want to put on your game face a little earlier and make sure you’re being nice to the receptionist. Many companies check in with administrative assistants about their impressions of job candidates, the Wall Street Journal reported recently. Lobby-based first impressions become relevant to hiring decisions up to 10% of the time.
The Journal talks to a Massachusetts CEO who says he was “on the fence” about a particular candidate for an administrative post. When he talked about the candidate with an assistant and an HR administrator, they encouraged him not to hire her because of her immaturity: She had asked, “When will I get paid?” The CEO explains, “They just had a gut-level sense she was not the right match.”
In other cases, the receptionist may prevent you from even getting an interview in the first place. One executive assistant says that when two men came to her desk to drop off applications for a warehouse job in May, she only passed along the documents from the man who looked tidy and professional. The resume of the other man, who “looked like he had just gotten out of a bar fight,” went right in the circular file.
The involvement of the receptionist in hiring decisions is a symptom of a larger movement to hiring based on “culture fit,” the Journal explains. In this brave new world, you’re judged not just on your resume, but on you — your personality, your poise, etc. In fact, more recruiters say that a candidate’s fit with company culture is important than say the same about technical qualifications. Skills can be taught, but personality and values are trickier to impart via half-day seminar.