I am Your Interviewer

and I’ll be judging you today

I am your Interviewer


Good morning and welcome. I am your interviewer, and I’ll be judging you today.

Over the years I have seen countless articles, blogs and tutorials, where candidates are given sage advice on what they must do to successfully navigate the job interview process. “Wear these clothes, sit this way, use that tone of voice, don’t chew gum etc.” I have yet to see anything which describes the situation your interviewer is in, and what they bring to the process. Most interviewers are working from your CV/resume and maybe an online application form. This tells them your work history and qualifications, but so far they have no idea what you are like as a person, or if you have the requisite motivation and personality traits to succeed in this job.

Here are a few examples of typical interviewers you could well be sitting across from.

  1. Experienced Agency Recruiter. “I know this marketplace very well, and have intimate knowledge of what my client needs. My reputation depends on the quality of each hire, and I make serious commission as a result. If you are a star candidate, I will give you my undivided attention. If not, then you may well be good enough to be presented to my client, in order to make my real star candidate look good”. In most interview scenarios there are star candidates, and there are supporting actors. In this situation (as the candidate), it would really help to find out which category you have been put in, before meeting the employer. If I don’t see an immediate use for you, I may ask for you to speak with my;
  2. Trainee Agency Recruiter. This recruiter urgently needs to get some flying time, so interviewing as many people as possible will help to sharpen their skills, and enable them to identify star candidates. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the very first priority, and you are their guinea-pig. This trainee is unlikely to be able to present you directly to a suitable employer. Do not ask for, or expect useful career advice. What you need to do here is impress them enough to get referred up the food chain to an experienced recruiter in your field.
  3. HR Manager. “I have a million and one things to do, and recruitment is a real drag on my time. I do not want to see first-round speculative candidates for junior positions. If I am interviewing you, then you have already been through one or more meetings with line managers or others in HR. You have been progressed to this level on the recommendation of others, and are therefore a likely candidate. I probably have more than one purpose in mind for you. Having said all that, I may well be assessing the judgment of others, who endorsed you, and merely going through the motions before promoting the person I had already ear-marked for this job.”
  4. HR Generalist. “I am the first port of call for all HR related issues, including recruitment, but do not get to make any actual decisions, including job offers. If I am interviewing you, then the best you can hope for is my recommendation to proceed to the next level. If any candidates are being interviewed “as a favour” to a relative of the boss, then I’m the one who will do it – probably by telephone or video interview. Yes, I’m the person who screens all the video interviews, and rejects according to established criteria (No one without a degree, over 40, under 25, lives too far away, is too ugly, is too pretty, or has a crappy webcam etc).”
  5. In-House Recruiter. “I am the only one in this place with commercial nous, as I was a crack agency recruiter, hiring high volumes of staff and making amazing commission. OK maybe I wasn’t the very best agency recruiter. I have a very focused job, which is to hire the best available individuals fast, and within a tight budget. If I have sourced you directly via social media channels, then I am already impressed with you. If you have applied via a job board or through our company website, then you may be one of many, and I need to be seen to deliver a great candidate experience, even if you are totally unsuitable.”
  6. Line Manager. “I could do this job myself, but simply don’t have the time, and really need to appoint someone ASAP. Basically I need another me. If your CV (resume) resembles mine, then you have a distinct advantage. I haven’t interviewed many people, so forgive me if I don’t observe the niceties – I may ask questions that I really shouldn’t, such as your age, family circumstances or even religion.” This is normally due to inexperience, not prejudice.
  7. Managing Director – Company Owner. “I have a vision for the type of employee I want, that can really help to grow this company, whilst always recognising that I am the boss. I want my hires to be heroic, and for each one to be a game changer for the company. If my appointments make the company look good, they make me look good. In this interview, please feel free to flatter me and my company as much as you like. I may act tough, but generally speaking I’m a pushover if you say the right things.”
  8. Random Employee. “I have no idea why I am interviewing you. I know you have already been seen by the agency recruiter, HR Generalist, and the Managing Director. Apparently they quite like you, but can’t make up their minds, so want me to spend some time with you. Frankly I have a ton of work to do, and do not want to be here. So long as you don’t seem crazy, I’ll tell them that you are fine in my view.”

These eight types of interviewers range from extremely professional and experienced, to rank amateur, and all bring different things to their meeting with you. Wherever possible, a little homework on your interviewer can make a dramatic difference to the outcome that works best for you.

What types of interviewer have you met, and which ones I have missed out here?

About Stephen O’Donnell

Old-school recruiter, owning and running recruitment firms since 1987. Founder ofPCEvaluate (psychometric profiling), and the National Online Recruitment Awards.

You can listen to an audio version of this blog here