Back-to-back interviews are when a candidate speaks with multiple decision-makers within a company one right after the other. Some employers use back-to-back interviews to streamline scheduling and complete all of the necessary interviews for later-stage hiring in a single day.
Though a marathon day of interviews can be exhausting for you as a candidate, it’s a great opportunity to make a wide-reaching positive impression with everyone who has a say in the hiring process. It’s also a valuable chance to get the perspective of multiple people within the organization, which is an advantage you don’t always get when job searching.
We’ll share what to expect if you’re scheduled for back-to-back interviews and offer some tips to help you make the most of this important opportunity.
How do back-to-back interviews work?
Back-to-back interviews consist of multiple interviews scheduled consecutively, with or without a small break between conversations. Typically, when setting up back-to-back interviews, a recruiter will schedule you for a half-day or full day onsite. Here’s how that might look:
9:00 to 9:45 – Interview with HR representative
9:45 to 10:30 – Interview with hiring manager
10:30 to 10:45 – Break
10:45 to 11:30 – Q&A with team peer
11:30 to 12:15 – Interview with department chair
Back-to-back interviews are designed to have you interact with people at different levels and in different roles at the organization. The goal is for all parties to gain a more complete understanding of whether you would be a strong fit for the job, department and company.
Tips for handling back-to-back interviews
1. Prepare as much as you can in advance
During the scheduling process, find out the name and title of each person you’ll be interviewing with. Learn as much as you can about their role at the company. This will help you tailor your answers to what they’re most likely to be looking for.
For example, an HR representative will probably be asking broad questions to confirm that you meet the minimum job requirements, while a department chair will be asking more specific questions about your technical capabilities and prior experience.
Next, look on sites like Glassdoor and Reddit to see if there’s any information available on the interview process at this particular company. You’ll sometimes find firsthand accounts of what another candidate’s interview day was like, including the interview format, specific questions that were asked, whether there was a break for lunch, and other pertinent details.
Finally, come prepared with enough copies of your resume to distribute to each interviewer (plus a few extra) along with your driver’s license or other ID.
2. Dress in comfortable layers
While it’s always an interview best practice to dress to impress, you also want to choose attire you’re going to feel comfortable in for several hours. The slightly scratchy wool sweater you can tolerate for a single interview session might start giving you hives by the time you’re on conversation number three! So, go with a tried-and-true outfit that makes you feel your best.
Another pro tip for multi-hour interview days is to dress in layers. Choose an outer layer like a suit jacket or quality sweater that will keep you comfy if the office A/C is blasting, but ensure your inner layer is nice enough to wear on its own (i.e. a dress shirt or blouse) if you start to warm up.
3. Choose practical footwear
Your consecutive interviews might require you to quickly shuttle from one part of the building or campus to another. For this reason, stilettos aren’t a solid choice. Flat dress shoes in a dark color are a safe option–but skip the sneakers at all costs.
4. Avoid getting parched
During a day of back-to-back interviews, one thing is for sure: you’re going to be doing a lot of talking. A dry throat can quickly derail even the most polished delivery. Bring a bottle of water and keep it handy to sip between questions. Pocketing a couple cough drops is a good idea, too, just in case.
5. Perfect your elevator pitch
Since you’re going to be introducing yourself over and over again, you want to make sure you’re giving everyone a consistent and polished version of your background. You can do this by creating what’s called an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a short statement summarizing your skills, qualifications and background. The idea is that it should be succinct enough that you could tell it to someone during an elevator ride. You can use it to respond to an interview question like ‘tell me about yourself,’ but it’s also applicable in casual introductions to other staff members on your interview day.
Your elevator pitch should communicate what job you’re applying for, a little bit about your background and why you want the job/what makes you a strong fit.
Here’s an example:
‘Nice to meet you. I’m Gary Shavers. I’m interviewing for the sales analyst job. I’m currently an assistant sales analyst for a communications firm in Pittsburgh. I love what I do and am interested in making the move to Philadelphia because there are so many more opportunities for advancement here. I’ve heard great things about this company and was excited to see an opening that matched my skills.’
6. Practice for a wide range of questions
While there’s a good chance you’ll be asked a few repeat questions during your multiple rounds of interviews, it’s also very likely that you’ll cover a wide range of topics. So, you need to prepare for all types of questions, including but not limited to questions about your hard and soft skills, strengths, weaknesses, prior experience, work style, personality, and education.
You’ll also want to strategize how you might answer behavioral and situational interview questions, which ask you to describe how you might react if confronted with a particular situation on the job, or how you handled such a situation in the past.
7. Keep your energy level high
Back-to-back job interviews make for a long day, but you can’t afford to lose steam. The last thing you want is for your final interviewer, which is sometimes the most important decision-maker, to get a tired, low-energy version of yourself.
Get a good night’s rest the night before interview day and eat a light but well-rounded meal before your first meeting. Pack a high-protein snack like an RX Bar or trail mix to munch on between conversations for a quick energy boost.
8. Ask questions
As we touched on earlier, one of the best things about back-to-back interviews from a candidate’s perspective is the chance to interact with many different people in the company. Think of this like your own personal reconnaissance mission: you’re out to discover whether this is, in fact, a place you’d be happy and successful working at for the long term.
Make the most of it by asking good questions. Just be sure to tailor your questions to the person you’re speaking with. For example, an HR rep probably won’t be able to get into the specifics of the software you’d be using in the role, but a team lead or peer could tell you all about it.
Also, avoid asking too pointedly about things like time off or perks. If you do want to probe about these or other potentially sensitive topics, use our guide to asking the tough questions during an interview here.
9. Take copious notes
By the end of the day, there’s a strong chance your head’s going to be spinning and the different conversations you’ve had will all start to blur together. This is why it’s a good idea to take notes throughout the day, both during your interviews and quickly after each one. Your notes will help you keep your interviewers straight, keep track of important details, and remember things you want to research further or ask about if you receive an offer.
10. Follow up
End your series of back-to-back interviews on a strong note by sending a thank you message to each interviewer. These don’t have to be complicated; you can start with a basic template and send a slightly modified version to each person (just don’t copy and paste the same thing word-for-word to all of them).
Sending a cordial and timely thank you message will reinforce the positive impression you made and help ensure all of the effort you put into preparing for your multiple rounds of interviews pays off.