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Standing is a measure of respect

Q. In an interview, before a panel of interviewers, when the interviewee enters the room, must the panel members stand? Does it depend on whether the interviewer is male or female? Older or younger? Lower or higher in rank? Thanks for any help you can provide.

G. M., Atlanta, GA

A. Your question implies that a panel of interviewers did not stand up. I have to wonder why they would choose not to stand to greet the interviewee. Standing up is such a simple act of respect, and standing when the interviewee enters the room is a welcoming gesture that sets a positive tone to the start of the interview. By showing that measure of respect, the interviewers define the positive respectful place the business is. Does age, gender, or a difference in rank matter? In terms of the basic gestures of respect we expect of each other, no they do not. Male or female, older or superior, they should stand to greet the interviewee.

One of the things I tell interviewees is that the interview process is a two-way street. As much as a company is taking the measure of you, you should be using the interview as an opportunity to take stock of the company and to answer one question: Is this a company I want to work for? How they treat you is an important clue as to how you can expect to be treated as an employee. Do they show the respect you know you should accord them? In this case, since you would stand to greet them, do they stand or do they remain seated? Do they ask inappropriate questions? Are they engaged and listening or do they seem bored and distracted? How they treat you is a mirror reflecting the culture of the company they represent, and you will find you are either attracted to it or repelled by it.

So much has been written about how interviewees are meant to behave during an interview. But there’s very little advice directed at the interviewers. Interviewers should stand, look the interviewee in the eye, shake hands firmly, introduce themselves, and offer guidance as to where to sit. They should do their homework and be prepared with questions they want to ask. They should listen attentively as the candidate presents him or herself and answers their questions. At the end of the interview, they should let the candidate know what the next steps are and when a decision can be expected. And finally, they should be sure to thank the candidate and then follow up by sending a thank you note.

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