Most people rightly assume that the interview starts when you sit down with the interviewer(s). While largely true, always assume your first impression for your interview starts the moment you enter the building.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the character test of how someone treats the server at lunch or the housekeeping staff in the office. It’s no different here. How you treat people who are seemingly unimportant or don’t have much influence is an indication of how you’ll behave on the job.

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You might be wondering what a server and a housekeeper have to do with your job interview.

In the job interview, assume everyone you interact with is a server/housekeeper equivalent.

You’d be surprised who talks to whom. That security officer you were short with when you arrived may have lunch with someone who is interviewing you. They may just mention their first impression of you and how rude you’d been.

Is how you treated the security personnel an official criteria for hiring someone for a job? No, of course not. But, it may color how people you interview with interpret your answers and behaviors.

Recently, I was involved in a hiring decision where the candidate did well in the interview. The decision to extend a job offer was almost a sure thing. But, the candidate’s escort mentioned to the hiring manager that the candidate was behaving strangely in the elevator. What went from nearly a sure thing, became a questionable hire.

In this case, the hiring manager called the candidate for a second interview, used a different escort when the candidate returned, and called a few of the job references. The second escort didn’t observe anything strange and all other contacts seemed to line up with the impressions from the interview, so the offer was extended.

The new hire will never know how close they came to not being hired due to small talk in the elevator.

So the next time you go to an interview, play it safe. Here’s my number one piece of advice:

Assume everyone knows everyone. Assume that anyone you interact with that day has input on the final decision to offer you a job.