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I will be attending a panel interview (with two men and two women). I don't know their names. I want to be more polite, but I am not sure whether it is alright to say

Good afternoon, sirs and madams

in the panel interview.

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    As context is everything, what country is the interview in? And what sector (Academic, technical, creative, ...)? – jonathanjo Aug 17 at 12:51
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    And what country? This completely depends on context and culture. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 17 at 20:40
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    Voting to close as unclear. Although the literal answer "No, not 'sirs' or 'madams'" is straightforward, the deeper question is whether it's appropriate to use this kind of language at all and that varies very much across the English-speaking world. Without information on where the asker is and the type of interview, we can't give a proper answer. – David Richerby Aug 18 at 9:13
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At an interview, you should not be too effusive with your greeting, or too verbose (unless invited by a leading question intended to draw you out). The interview panel makes the moves, so I suggest you be polite and uncontroversial.

Good morning / afternoon

is sufficient, with a brief look around the interviewers to make it clear you are greeting them all, and wait for them to take the lead.

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    I totally agree with Weather Vane. If you started of with good afternoon Sir(s) and Madam(s) in any of my interviews you would have been quickly finished. The last thing someone wants to employ is a person full of B.S. and this is how it would come over. Unless you already know the leading member of the panel you should be courteous and polite but follow the lead given by the panel. Not over confident, not arrogant, not servile but also not afraid of the panel. – Brad Aug 17 at 22:00
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    @Brad This is very culturally dependent. There are plenty of places where "sir" etc. are normal forms of address. – David Richerby Aug 18 at 15:01
  • @David Richerby I agree and if you were to reply to a question with "yes Sir" and that is normally used in your area that is fine. My Comment has been taken out of context I stated "If you started of with good afternoon Sir(s) and Madam(s)". – Brad Aug 19 at 13:55
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When politely greeting one person, we can say "good morning/afternoon/evening", and possibly add "sir" for a man, or "madam" for a woman, although these are now very old-fashioned in Western countries, except for e.g. royalty, judges in court, etc. "Sir" and "madam" do not have plurals. To greet a group, mixed in gender, we can say "Good morning/afternoon/evening, ladies and gentlemen." ("ladies" always comes first).

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    Of course you're correct in what you say, but I'd comment that "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen" sounds like a performer addressing an audience rather than an interviewee addressing a panel. – jonathanjo Aug 17 at 12:43
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    I don't agree. It sounds fine to me for an interview panel, if a little over-formal. The point was to make it clear that "sirs" and "madams" are totally wrong. Just saying "Good afternoon", and looking at the panel and smiling would work fine, in fact. – Michael Harvey Aug 17 at 12:46
  • @jonathanjo I agree. The only groups of people that I've ever heard be addressed as "ladies and gentlemen" are essentially audiences. I say "essentially" because it might come before an announcement rather than a performance ("Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to announce that tonight's performance is cancelled"), but it's still coming before an address to a group of people. – David Richerby Aug 18 at 9:09
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Yes, but "Ladies and Gentlemen" is more conventional nowadays.

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    This answer seems to echo what Michael Harvey's answer already says, and doesn't really elaborate or support its claim at all. – V2Blast Aug 18 at 16:00
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    Also it would be a very strange and awkward phrase to use to address a small interview panel, at least in the US. – eps Aug 18 at 16:10
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No, don't say "sirs and madams" under any circumstances. "Madams" are women who run brothels.

I would recommend any of these.

  • "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen."
  • "Good afternoon, everyone."
  • "Good afternoon."

Which is best depends on which country you're in.

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In the UK I have very frequently and over many years been in meetings that begin with somebody addressing the group relatively formally. If they happened all to be men, no problem: "Gentlemen" does the trick. If all were women:"Ladies" is perfect . Likewise if there were several men and women "Ladies and Gentlemen" would be quite correct. But what do you say if there is only one woman? Far too frequently I have heard some kind of embarrassed "Er, Lady... and Gentlemen", on the false basis that the singular of "Ladies" is "Lady".

The correct form has to be "Madam, and Gentlemen". If she were there on her own (and recall that we are being formal here) you would address her as "Madam". That is not changed by the presence alongside her of men. The plural of "Madam" is "Ladies".

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    I frequently chair meetings of senior lawyers and administrators, most of them way more senior than me, and I just say "Hello everybody - thanks for coming". I am based in the UK, and we have really shed the deferential attitudes that we used to have. – Michael Harvey Aug 18 at 9:43
  • @MichaelHarvey One does not have to be formal at meetings, and you clearly avoid it, but, if someone does wish to be formal, as they might at a public meeting, say, then my answer suggests a wrong way and a right way. – JeremyC Aug 18 at 10:58
  • I should add that the senior lawyers, judges, administrators, etc, smile and say "Hello Mike". Many of the men won't be wearing neckties. That's how far we have come. – Michael Harvey Aug 18 at 12:43

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