Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reception Can Play An Important Role In Recruiting

I have just come to something.  Observing people’s behavior in the reception area can tell you a lot about a perspective employee.  While candidates are waiting to see you, what they do in the reception area can tell a lot about them. 

Many companies have company literature available in reception.  Are prospective employees curious and interested enough to read it?  Many ad agencies have monitors showing their latest television and interactive work.  Do prospects look at it?  Ditto print work on the walls – do they even look at it? 

Are they friendly with the receptionist?  Did they bring coffee (any of you who follow my blog posts know that this is one of my pet peeves) and, if so, when it is time for the interview, do they simply leave their cup in reception or do they ask to throw it away or do they take it with them?

All of these things may be tell-tale signs of the character and personality of the people interviewing with you. 

In my own reception area, I keep Ad Age and Ad Week as well as a collection of my Ad Age columns.  I observe whether people read any of it while waiting for me.  Not that it is essential, but it tells me about the curiosity of people coming to see us.  Many simply spend their waiting time on their Blackberries, reading and writing emails or playing games.  I am always surprised when people don’t pick up any of the literature I keep out.  I, for one, would certainly want to know about the company I was seeing – I don’t mind being kept waiting when I make sales calls so that I can read the literature or see the work of the companies who retain me.

It might be very interesting to bring your reception people into the process to observe and report.  The demeanor of candidates as they arrive may tell you a lot about their personality, their interest in your company and their curiosity in general.  I am not asking reception to be a spy, merely to be part of the process.

Just a thought. 


  1. Hey Paul. Nice post. One of my favorite interview questions is "Tell me about me?" I like to find out how observant a candidate is. Do they see family pictures, book titles, wall art, desk organization are they listening? And, perhaps more importantly, are they bull-sh*tters. Try it some time. It’s a hoot.

  2. Dear Paul, this also works excellently in the reverse. I usually like to get to an interview 15 minutes early to sit listen and check out the prospective company. Is the receptionist cordial, attentive and professional? Or is she chewing gum and looking miserable? Also, what's the energy like with people walking around and the talking and "buzz"? Are people laughing? Talking intensely, energetically? Or running by sweating like they're going to have a coronary? Or worse yet, there's rude yelling going on? (it's happened). Granted, this is generally more observable in smaller agencies where reception is very close to all the action, but I always find it insightful.
    My best,

  3. Indeed yes, you can tell a lot about how a person behaves in Reception. I always went to Reception to retrieve candidates. 80% of the time I knew by the time we reached my office that the candidate was not a prospect for our company.

  4. I really enjoy your blog, Paul. My two daughters, 23 and 19, are interviewing for some of their first real work experiences--and though they WILL NOT be going into advertising, your advice is sage and universal. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for your comments.

    Paul, you are dead on. I check my own reception and, when I was an account guy, I did exactly what you did and for the same reasons.

    Chris, I love reception areas. As a recruiter, they allow me to not only assess the company but who they hire. Most companies actually have central casting, which is important both for recruiters and candidates.

    Steve, that is really interesting. I may try it.


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