I'm the last to walk into a meeting room and join five others, expectantly awaiting interview. Barely surrounding even a quarter of the perimeter of the huge table, we nervously eyeball each other, weighing up how much of a threat each one poses. I've purposefully arrived a few minutes before our start time in an attempt to avoid prolonged awkward silences or conversation that may reveal potentially intimidating information about the competition.
After the welcome distraction of my arrival, an uncomfortable silence prevails but as the minutes pass, the small talk resumes. I've packed a bag of work, instructing myself to try to consciously avoid talking to the other candidates - I'm attempting to refrain from making those morale destroying mental comparisons.
Showtime is mercilessly soon and relieved to have survived part one, I return to the meeting room of before to be taken on a much less intimidating tour of the buildings. Relaxed by the informal tour, I'm back in “my” seat at one end of the enormous table, watching with amusement as we all eye-up a plate of chocolate biscuits that have arrived in our absence – nobody wants to help themselves unasked and give the impression they're taking liberties, are chocoholics or particularly greedy.
The plate remains untouched until the “meet and greet” begins when already established staff filter into the room. Unwrapping a Kit Kat, I wonder if the tempting treat plate was a clever initiative test or psychological experiment. I have little time to seriously contemplate the matter, before being shown to the “holding pen” where I must wait until my designated interview slot.
Here, I'm grateful for my foresight in bringing work along and relieved I'm not the only one to have done so. Trying not to get too caught up in interview anecdotes, while there's still time I question the internal candidate, attempting to get any inside information I can.
Back at home, I reflect on the experience, wondering what the experts say about interacting with other candidates during a recruitment day. It seems they say very little. A lot is written about the importance of communication during group interviews but almost nothing about pre-, mid- and post-interview small talk. The only advice I find seems to suggest I've taken the right approach, leaving me hopeful that perhaps other decisions I made throughout the day were equally well-judged...