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There are moments in the interview process when you have to summon up the highest levels of tact and diplomacy. A track record of working for the UN would probably provide a suitable training ground for the erstwhile Interview Panel Member but in the absence of that opportunity, those with real panel potential will have to dig deep into the depths of their souls to find the most noble, or nearest available, behaviours and feelings of well wishing towards their fellow human beings: which of course includes the next interviewee.

And in the current instance, the question of who the next interviewee would be, is up for some debate. When the door opened and the candidate stepped in, it took us a while to gather our collective composure but gather it we did and we immediately stepped up to the protocol plate and began what we like to call, in Interview Panel Land, The Process.

In Interview Panel Land, it only takes a sprightly ‘Good afternoon!’ from the candidate and we’re off, our seven collective hive minds leaping into action, enthusiastically firing questions in the general direction of the interviewee:

“How are you?”
“Have you travelled far?”
“How was the journey?”
“Would you like a glass of water?”
“Would you like to make your presentation now or later?”
“Are you comfortable?”
“And you are?”

At this point we all look at each other, our hive minds busy doing overtime. The last comment was unnecessary as by all normal standards of interview protocol, the Interview Panel Member will know exactly who is in front of them. There should be no debate at all about the identity of the poor unfortunate soul who is seated before us, compliant, hesitant, looking at us with those puppy dogs that plead, ‘please like me… If only for a second, a minute, the length of this interview… Please just like me and everything I stand for.

But on this occasion, the question is not unwarranted. Quite the contrary. The identity of the interviewee has been a source of distress for us ever since we read that a Mrs. Beecham would not be attending but that she would be sending a Mr. Arnold in her surrogate stead.

“I beg your pardon?”

We all sit up at this moment, slightly startled, a rabbits-caught-in-headlights look washing over our collective visages. It is completely unheard of for a candidate to ask us questions at this stage of The Process. At the end, when we have exhausted the candidate with a barrage of questions, supplementary questions, asides, irrelevant comments and witticisms which leave us smiling but the candidate completely baffled: certainly. In the middle, when the candidate is trying to figure out what we mean with our three part questions, inconsequential sub clauses and ‘I’ve got the answer in my head and you have to guess it‘ rhetoric: possibly. But at the start of The Process? When we still have to ascertain with the candidate which one of the seven hive minds is playing good cop, bad cop or the five other shades of dubious morality cop? Certainly not!

However, despite this flagrant disregard for The Process, the collective hive mind of the Panel soon rebalances itself and is able to adjust to the unforeseen difficulties it is presented with.

“It says here that the application is from Mrs Beecham but that she is being represented by a Mr. Arnold.”
“That’s right.”
“So you must be Mr. Arnold?”
“That’s right.”

We all breathe a sigh of relief. We’re off and away and now that we’ve established who’s in front of us we can get on with the job in hand.

We’re back into full Process mode and before you know it, thirty minutes has flown by. Shiny happy faces is the order of the day and the candidate is left feeling upbeat, full of confidence that they have strolled into this job and can start planning their annual holidays, new car and children’s private schooling.

Whether this particular candidate is going to be offered the job for which they didn’t apply for is still up for discussion (which we will undertake at the end of The Process). So until then, we are content to write copious notes in our ruled A4 notebooks, stare wistfully out at the sunshine but eventually knuckle down to the job in hand.

Before long, there is another knock at the door and this time, tea and biscuits are supplied by a lady of unknown origin pushing a trolley with a squeaky front wheel.

We all sit back, safe in the knowledge that one thing our firm has acknowledged is that we do know how to be civilised even in the most difficult of circumstances.