Job interviews are done differently depending on the culture of the company. Sometimes, there is the phone interview, the face-to-face interview, and that’s it. Sometimes there’s a technical interview before a hiring manager interview. Sometimes after.
Then there is … the job interview gauntlet. You know the one: You get there at 8 a.m. sharp and have an interview with a different person every hour — including lunch hour. You get the schedule, and all you can imagine is that by the 4 p.m. interview you’ll be half dead, and seriously ready for a beer.
How to cope? Good preparation and a steely resolve to make it through the day knocking people’s socks off. Let’s take a look at preparation.
1. Interview gauntlets are ridiculous.
Let’s just say this up front. Having six or seven people interview you over the course of a day is nuts — especially when you know that most companies aren’t disciplined enough to gather all those people together after the interviews to come up with a well-rounded picture of your work. That kind of interview process also tells you a lot about the culture of a company and what you’d run into if you were working there and advocating for a change.
2. Prepare to answer the same question many times.
Most people doing interviews are good at doing their work. They are not good at interviewing. You’ll hear lots of stock questions. If you get really sharp people interviewing you, they’ll compare the answers you give to the same questions to see how you vary your answers and try to learn something from that. Your goals in all this are to not get frustrated at answering the same question over and over and to answer the question the same way.
3. Have multiple stories about your work and the strengths you bring to the job.
Different people will bring your answers to a consensus meeting and describe your work based on the stories you tell. That time you successfully ran an enterprise project, or the time you overcame obstacles to finish work started by others, or the time you collaborated with a team to carry out a powerful new way of working a process.
Each of your stories should show the strengths you bring to your job. Think about the people talking after the interviews. “She told me about the time running an enterprise project.” “In my interview, he told me about the time he was brought in to save a situation.” “But she works well with teams because in my interview it was about implementing a new process.” Different stories keep the conversation going, and each story adds to the strengths you bring to your work — especially compared to your competition.
4. Prepare different questions to learn about company’s culture and management style.
You want to interview them, too, right? You want to learn about the company and departmental culture. You want to know how the team works in the most effective way. You want to know how your potential manager manages. So prepare different questions that you can ask each person — a rich environment for finding out information about the company — to learn about culture and management style. Besides, people like talking about their work, and this many people aren’t expert interviewers, so talking about their work is easier for them than interviewing.
5. Some people won’t show for the interview — and that’s okay.
If a person doesn’t show, it tells you that they care about you — but not that much. I know of a candidate who was flown 900 miles for a job interview gauntlet, had the entire day scheduled, and by the time lunch came around where the candidate was to be interviewed by the hiring manager, the hiring manager made it for 10 minutes. Didn’t ask any questions, either. Then the other people at lunch noted that the two people scheduled for the afternoon also had conflicts, so our job candidate made it back to the airport early, got on an earlier flight and arrived home in time for supper.
When she got the job offer, she turned it down, and the stunned recruiter said, “Lots of people want this job.” “Fine,” she said. “Go hire them; I’ll pass.” Treated this way, you would, too.
Job interview gauntlets take a lot out of you. Prepare well, plan on asking penetrating questions about the company and the work, then watch how they treat you, and you’ll do fine. By the time you’re done — regardless of their decision — you’ll know whether you want to work for this company and this manager. That’s worth the gauntlet. And a beer.