Resume Help/Interview Reception


Hi Ralph,

I recently went through what I thought was a very weird interview experience.  The interview itself was fine but when I arrived at the site, the receptionist asked me to sit in the same area as her desk.  She then asked me questions most of the time I was there.  She asked why I was changing jobs, how long I had been at my previous job, what I didn't like about working there, and a few other things like that.  Is that normal?  Did she have the right to ask me those questions?  I tried to be polite, but I was trying to get my focus for the interview and she seemed like kind of nosy.  What is your take on this kind of thing?

Hi Ellen,

This does happen though I would say that your experience was a bit more direct than other people who have encountered this "pre-interview" scenario.

As to your questions: though your example was a bit extreme, it is not an abnormal situation and, yes, she has the right to ask those questions.  As a matter of fact, if you think about it, she was undoubtedly directed to do just that by someone further up the food chain.  The thing you must remember as a job applicant going to an interview is that you have to be ready to be "on" as soon as you walk through the door of the interview site.  It is quite common today that the interviewer or the interview committee will ask receptionists, people assigned to escort you through the building, or others who are not technically "interviewing" you, to provide their take on your professional demeanor, your manners, and their overall impression of you as a potential employee.  

You may be surprised to know that there have been a lot of job candidates who have sunk their candidacy before they ever got to the formal interview.  They did this by saying stupid or insulting things to the receptionist, eating in the reception area, putting their feet on the furniture, or generally acting like the immature individual that they apparently are.  You are expected to act in a professional manner no matter who you talk to or come in contact with inside the interview site.  

Be attentive to your manners and assume that you are being judged by everyone around you ... because that, in fact, may actually be the case.  To be sure, not every employer does this, but of the ones I have interviewed, about 95% follow this practice today.  That is a huge change from just ten years ago when a relatively small minority of employers were using employees other than the interviewers themselves to make judgments about job applicants.  The rise in this more global kind of decision-making coincides with employer Internet searches of your presence on social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc) and anywhere else there may be evidence of your activities that they can find.  This is all legal and is now the standard way most employers operate.

So, be prepared for this next time, expect it, and just assume you are being eyeballed by everybody in the building.  This can be to your advantage if you make a little extra effort to smile and be polite to everyone.

Hope this helps; best of luck!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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