Facing a Day’s Worth of Job Interviews Without Losing Your Mind

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.

Line of ManagersThen 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.

14 Responses to “Facing a Day’s Worth of Job Interviews Without Losing Your Mind”

  1. Shailesh

    This is a really good post but I have to disagree with #1. I can’t imagine running a company and not putting each person I hired through a little bit of stress, gave them a little bit of exposure to lots of different types of people and saw how they reacted. Hiring the wrong person is very costly (between the hiring process, salary during employment, training, lost time, severance and bad PR for firing/layoff) and companies have to do it based on just a couple of hours of talking to someone.

    I’ve been in the job market a few times since I finished college (I’m only 30), and I take it as a good sign if I interview with a number of people in the same org. and get an offer. Its a sign that they think I’ll fit in, deliver results and grow as a professional.

    I think most people who see jobs as symbiotic relationships would agree.

    As for #2 – #4, I would hope that the company would schedule you with people of different expertises and levels. This would allow you to highlight different aspects of even the same stories to different people and get a gauge on how you treat people. (Are you a braggart with lower level people while brown-nosing with the top brass?) But I think your advice is solid. The more things you can draw from, the better you look.

    As for #5, I agree. If people don’t show up for the interview then they don’t really value the process and the importance of hiring the right people into the firm. You’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. In fact they’d be happy knowing that because it means you came to them seeing a real opportunity to grow and you won’t be swayed to leave over $20 a paycheck.

    • Shailesh — there is a big difference between a little bit of stress and an interview gauntlet. I don’t think most people would object to interviewing with, say, three people during the morning. That makes sense and is also creating a bit of stress.

      But six, seven people in a day?

      So there is some line between a good number of interviews and a gauntlet. This is about the gauntlet.

      A great comment — thanks for leaving it.

    • @Lulz – It’s really more about the marathon vs. sprint angle. A lot of people prep for one or two interviews, but aren’t really prepared for what happens when you go in and have to face 7 or 8 people through the day. Plus, we wanted to give an idea of what goes on behind the scenes, how people compare notes once the interviews are done. It’s really a very different dynamic.

    • Mark is correct in this — it is more about the marathon than the sprint. It takes a LOT more preparation to come up with the stories, results, and skills to show to a variety of people. Plus a lot more practice — which most people don’t do even for single interviews.

      The key here is that since most people won’t do the work, you can get a competitive advantage by going the extra mile. The whole objective of face to face interviews, after all, is to get a job offer. Without the job offer, there is no job to move to.

  2. daviddws

    Oh yes .. I’ve been through this. My last position I had to go through this gauntlet not once.. but twice… Each day consisted of 4 hours with 8 different people. It does suck the life out of you. I miss the dot com days when you would go in for a 30 minute interview and get hired the same day!

  3. This is an absurd process and why I plan on never applying for any job.

    If the only upside they can offer me is dirty money, in exchange for slavery and death, and I don’t want money, slavery, or death, then forget it.

    I mean really, companies can’t offer me… anything… but money. And there is nothing I want to buy, so money is worthless to me. I see no point to this nonsense. And I don’t want to be an economic slave. Who would want that for themselves. It seems like an unhappy affair.

    • vonnie

      Being homeless costs. Whether your an economic slave, penitentiary slave or a slave to the person who is supporting your no money lifestyle your a slave.