Take Advantage of the Receptionist

Is it ever right to take advantage of someone? When they’re a valuable resource, absolutely! A friend just shared a great story with me. The other day, he interviewed several candidates consecutively in the company’s conference room. Toward the end of the day, he asked the receptionist–let’s call her Tina–to share her thoughts on each of the candidates she had greeted and ushered into the conference room.

Tina, who is very good at reading people, laughed. “Everyone thinks I’m unimportant or invisible, so they act however they want in the lobby. Then you come in, and they suddenly put their best foot forward.” She proceeded to share her astute observations about each candidate who had passed through her area. My wise friend listened carefully, took notes on the receptionist’s insights, and recorded them into the computer along with his own recommendations.

Employers, do you take advantage of the receptionist? Harvard Business Review talks about a collaborative culture, where competition is set aside and “collaborative help comes to the fore—lending perspective, experience, and expertise that improve the quality and execution of ideas.” If you’re not picking your receptionist’s brain after you’ve interviewed a candidate, you may be missing out on some valuable insights that can help you hire better! And if you’re currently looking for a new receptionist, be sure that one of the traits you screen for is the ability to read people. It will definitely come in handy. (For tips on behavioral interviewing, click here.)

Candidates, how do you treat the receptionist at a prospective employer’s office? Have you considered the possibility that he or she may soon be your co-worker and has an opinion about whether you should get hired or not? If the company culture is at all collaborative, you can bet that a smart boss is going to check with the receptionist for feedback on your initial conduct and interactions. (For tips on what not to say in an interview, click here.)

So take advantage of the receptionist. If you’re an employer interviewing for an open position, tap into Tina’s observations to gain a fuller perspective on your candidates. If you’re the candidate, treat Tina like gold. Who knows, she could be the first friend you make at your new job!

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