How to handle any kind of interviewer

professional preparing for interview

Almost every interview process will involve dealing with a range of different stakeholders. But would you know how to prepare for an interview with a member of HR compared to one with your potential line manager?

Being able to adapt your approach to present yourself to different stakeholders is one of the most important interview skills. Recognising what each of these stakeholders is looking for will allow you to prepare effectively for each stage of your interview. 


1. The internal recruiter

"Internal recruiters can work across a range of different divisions and it’s likely they may not hold too much technical knowledge around marketing positions. You’ll be in touch with them in the preliminary stages however, so you’ll need to make a good impression here in order to progress to the next level," said Ben Stevenson, Associate Director, Robert Walters.

However, internal recruiters may still ask you a number of competency based questions to see how you fit with the position. You’ll need to balance your answers here so as to not overwhelm them with technical jargon while still sounding informed. Things they will typically focus on will include:

  • Your motivation to join the company
  • Your expectations surrounding salary and packages
  • The level of cultural fit you will have within the organisation

2. HR officers

HR officers will typically delve a little bit deeper into the human elements of the role, your ability to satisfy these and where you will fit within the structure of the team. Like internal recruiters they will focus on your motivations and cultural fit, however they will also look at the specific role you will play within the team, including:

  • Your leadership potential
  • Your capacity to engage in team work
  • How you might communicate and engage with people across the business
  • Your ability to learn and mentor others

Members of HR will also want to gauge your understanding of the company and its operations, where it currently fits within the market as well as what you consider may impact the business over the coming years. Ben continues;

"You should be prepared to discuss how you feel about your career progression to date, including your where you feel your strengths lie as well as where you would like to continue your development."  

Recognising what each of these stakeholders is looking for will allow you to prepare effectively for each stage of your interview. 

3. Line manager interviews

As a rule, these can be your ‘make or break’ interviews where you be expected to demonstrate your technical capabilities and where you can bring real commercial value to the business. These interviews will likely cover all bases and should include:

  • Competency based questions
  • Technical questions
  • The knowledge and technical skills you can bring from outside of the organisation
  • A considered and unbiased summary of your strengths and limitations
  • Your personal qualities, why you want the role and your fit within the organisation

4. Senior stakeholder interviews

If you have a very senior interviewer who is outside of your direct team, you'll need to consider why they are there. What do they want to be assured of before you enter the business? Is this your capacity to lead? Your cultural fit? Your ability to partner with other areas of the business? This will be different for every position so make sure to think about this critically, trying to tick all of the final boxes.

Questions you may want to ask them include:

  • What is their experience of the department?
  • How might you improve the synergy within the team?
  • How does the organisation’s greater goals affect your future within the position?

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