How to Interview if You Know Your Interviewer
Out of all the types of interviewers—from the unprepared ones, to the overly intimidating ones, to the perfectly nice ones--perhaps the trickiest one is the one you already know. What do you say? How do you act? The answer, as is usually the case for complex social scenarios, is: “It depends.”
If you’re interviewing with an acquaintance
This is actually a great position to be in, as, according to LinkedIn, “a different process is used to hire acquaintances than strangers”—for one, your resume will likely rise to the top of the interview pile, giving you an automatic advantage over your competition.
If you’ve met your interviewer before, however briefly, feel free to acknowledge that with a quick “How have you been?”-type greeting. Once you’ve recognized that you know each other, proceed to move on to the interview at hand.
Overall, having an interviewer who is an acquaintance is pretty much all benefits and no drawbacks.
If you’re interviewing with your former manager
This could be the ideal “I already know my interviewer” situation. Why? Because your former manager already views you through a professional lens and knows what you’re capable of in a work setting. However, this can be the exact reason why this type of interview might prove a little trickier—your former manager knows exactly what it’s like to work with you.
In this situation, it’s expected you remain strictly professional while also not shying away from past experiences you’ve both shared—if those past experiences are relevant to the job for which you’re now interviewing. When discussing former roles, center on those your manager did not hire you for if possible, since it’s likely she remembers what you did well for her.
More importantly, focus on what you’ve done professionally in the time since you last worked together: accomplishments, lessons mastered, skills picked up, certificates earned, etc. It will help give your former manager a more complete and updated sense of who you are as a professional, while demonstrating just how far you’ve come.
If you are interviewing with a friend
This scenario presents a stickier situation than the ones above, since your friend presumably only knows you and your personality in social settings. The first thing to do is concede you’re friends—trying to pretend otherwise will simply make it awkward for everyone involved. Once an initial acknowledgment has been made, however, it’s time to switch to professional mode. That means no gossiping about the date you had the other night, no laughing over past road trips, no setting up plans for next weekend—you’re there for a job interview and ultimately that’s what it is.
This isn’t necessarily going to be an easy thing to do—Forbes even warns the closer you are to your friend/interviewer, the more likely your conversation is to veer away from the professional matter at hand. But it’s up to you to steer the conversation back to what you really came there for, which is to get the job!
Another major misstep that can come from getting interviewed by a friend is assuming the job in question is automatically yours. For a variety of different reasons (including the fact that it’s unlikely your friend is the only decision maker, your friend might be aware of some personality traits that would make you less than ideal for the role, etc.), you still have to demonstrate your ability to do well. So skip the inside jokes and demonstrate your ability—and desire—to be professional.
No matter who your interviewer is, it’s important to keep your eye on the goal. You can never go wrong if you remain professional yet warm, and let your accomplishments speak for themselves.