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Your interview for a new job does not begin when you sit down with your prospective employer’s hiring manager. That’s your formal interview. Your real interview includes everything a prospective employer can learn about you before your formal interview.

Cover letter and resume. Expect an employer to review your cover letter and resume with no tolerance for typos and jargon, and to compare these documents for consistency. To protect yourself, you should carefully review these documents. Even better, have two other people review these materials–one, an expert proofreader; the other, someone who knows your industry.

Social media. Expect an employer to check your social media– such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter– and to “Google” you. To protect yourself, you should scrub all your social media, to make sure there is nothing potentially incriminating for an employer to find. This includes Googling yourself first and fixing anything that could be a problem. For example, one client learned– for the first time–about a second cousin with the same name who had very different “cultural” tastes.

Credit history. It’s likely that the company will check your credit score and/or credit history. An employer may reason that if you are not responsible with your own money, you may not be responsible on the job.

Behavior while waiting. Expect your behavior before your formal interview to be noted. Expect your interviewer to ask the admin person about your behavior while waiting for the formal interview. Did you appear agitated? Were your phone calls loud or argumentative? Were you rude to the receptionist or others?

An extreme example of this kind of vetting was practiced by Zappos, a shoe company known for its positive company culture. The company chairman explained how it made sure that hires were not only good cultural fits but also good people.

“A lot of our job candidates are from out of town, and we’ll pick them up from the airport in a Zappos shuttle, give them a tour, and then they’ll spend the rest of the day interviewing,” he said. “At the end of the day of interviews, the recruiter will circle back to the shuttle driver and ask how he or she was treated. It doesn’t matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn’t treated well, then we won’t hire that person.”

Bottom line: Your real interview starts long before your formal interview.

For further reading:

Louis DeNicola, “Why do some employers check your credit history?,” 03.29.16


Max Nisen, “Tony Hsieh’s Brilliant Strategy for Hiring Kind People,” 11.22.13


Pauwels Consulting, “What (not) to do while waiting for a job interview,” 05.20.13


David Marwick is KempMillJobAssist’s workshop coordinator. He studied economics at George Washington University and worked as an economist for George Washington University and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.