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Handling Multiple Interviewers

Posted on Apr 28, 2018

It might feel like you’re facing lions and tigers and bears. There you sit alone in front of the room, waiting for the pack to attack with questions. It’s really not quite that bad. In fact, there is an upside to this process. You’d probably have to talk to each of these people individually at some point in the process. This way, you get it over all at once.

But how do you deal with so many interviewers in one sitting? The best way is to take them one at a time. The board or panel is not one entity, but several individuals coming together with the common goal of hiring the best candidate for the job. At the same time, each person has his own agenda or department’s interest at heart. For example, the HR manager will be checking to make sure you are a good fit with the culture and people working at this company. The hiring manager will want to know about your technical skills or business know-how. And the person from accounting will want to know if you are savvy enough to operate a business budget.

Board or panel interviews are usually rather formal and organized, using a standard set of questions for all applicants. This type of interview is typically used in academia, government or for high-level executives but can be used for any other type of position in any company.

A female client interviewed for a senior administrator job at a major health agency, facing a panel of 10 doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators. She felt like it was an inquisition, not an interview. But she had prepared well and was confident when she faced this tribunal. She looked at each person as he or she asked the question, and continued to look at that person for 30 seconds or so. She then shifted her eye contact to each member of the interviewing team. She made sure she made contact with each set of eyes while answering questions. She felt very much in control and her interview went well. The result was a job offer.

Another multiple-type interview is the team or “good cop/bad cop” interview. The team is usually made up of two interviewers, one who asks the questions and one who takes notes. The two typically trade roles, which can be confusing if they have different styles. In fact, one person may be kind and gentle and the other more harsh or pushy.

Just remember, these inquisitors are working together toward the same end. Treat them equally, not favoring one over the other.

Regardless of the type of interview, the best advice is to prepare and practice beforehand. When you have your script and have rehearsed your answers, you will feel prepared and more confident no matter how many people you have to face.

Lastly, a good tip to remember is to make sure you get each person’s business card, hopefully at the beginning of the interview, so you can address each person by name.