You should always know where you are going.
No, I am not being philosophical and referring to some path in your life that you should endeavor to find, although that is a very important issue. For this conversation, I am being direct and to the point. Always know how to get to your physical destination. This is especially important when you have a scheduled interview.
I lived in England for a few years back in the mid-1990s. This was (gasp) before the internet, GPS, and wide cell phone usage. If you wanted to go somewhere, you retrieved a good old fashioned paper map, figured out your route and wrote down the directions.
It came to pass that I had finished my undergraduate degree and was seeking a job. After cruising through the paper (another gasp), I found a position for which I was qualified. I mailed a paper copy (third gasp) via ”snail mail” to the recruiting agency and secured an interview.
Now, if you have ever visited England, you will know that the cities, and even smaller towns, can be a web of confusion with roads running this way and that. There doesn’t seem to be a master plan assigned to the twisting and turning streets. Cambridge is not an exception, especially for one unfamiliar with the town. One would be fool hardy to attempt to find an office in the middle of an unfamiliar city armed only with an address. But, that’s exactly what I did. Dressed to the business “nines,” I marched out of the house, got into my left-hand drive/right-hand shift manual transmission Volvo, and drove the 15 odd minutes to Cambridge.
When I arrived in the downtown area, I was quite shocked. Although I had the address and some rather vague directions, the office was just not to be found. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. Around and around the city center I went, to no avail. Irritation turned to fear as the minutes ticked by, and I was still searching. Fear turned to utter panic once I noticed that I was nearly a full 30 minutes past my appointment time! All but defeated, I made one last pass down the street that I was supposed to be on. This time, I spotted the office. Although it was in full view, it had a very nondescript door that would not be obvious to one who was negotiating traffic at normal speed.
Fortunate to find a parking spot close by, I parked the car and walked as fast as my heels and straight skirt would allow, arriving a full 45 minutes late. I pushed open the door of the office, breathless from the trot, and found myself face-to-face with a very annoyed receptionist who wanted to know why I had kept the interviewer waiting. It didn’t help when my embarassed response poured out in an American Southern drawl. I might as well have been an alien for the look that she gave me. Well, I was…
They graciously decided to grant the interview. However, it was very brief. The interviewer was testy, and I was a mess from the entire experience. Not only was I feeling the weight of my faux pas, but I was also physically uncomfortable from the rushing around. In short, the reality was that he had the power (the job), and I had nothing but my newly-minted degree in hand and an apology. Needless to say, I didn’t get the position.
Looking back, this major lapse in judgment taught me an extremely valuable, and rather common sense, lessons. When going for an interview…
- Always know exactly where you are going. Don’t rely on vague directions.
- Expect the unexpected. The unexpected for me was the nondescript office. Smaller companies are more commonly housed in business parks than large easy-to-locate headquarters buildings.
- Have a really good idea how long it will take to get there and then give yourself some extra “wiggle” time just in case the unforeseeable occurs. If flying to your destination, anticipate flight delays.
- If you are driving, know where parking will be available and how to get there.
- Finally, it is a good idea to scope out a place in advance where you can freshen up a bit, especially if you have traveled a good distance. You don’t want to be physically uncomfortable during the interview.
Planning ahead and arriving early should give you time collect your thoughts, spruce up your attire, and relax before the interview.
As Assistant Director of Recruiting within the Wake Forest Schools of Business Corporate Relations team, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She manages all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school. Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002. She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles. Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories. Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank. Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and will complete her Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest in 2011. Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.