A friend of mine recently had to do a panel interview (5 people - what?!!). Panel interviews are becoming less attractive for the interview process, but still feature - particularly in senior appointments or government related roles.
Successfully navigating a panel interview requires a number of considerations, so in the interests of helping you smash out your next panel interview, here are 7 tips to help:
1. Make a connection with the panel. In saying this I mean, make a connection with each individual on the panel. To do this requires soft skills in the interview, but also requires you to have done your background homework. Know who will be on the panel and (for want of a better phrase!) stalk them to find out what their background is. LinkedIn, google searches and even social media can tell you a lot about someone. Understand their likely ‘role’ as part of the panel and make sure you have prepared adequately for this.
2. Know yourself well - what makes you great for this role, what are your weaknesses (and how will we get around them) and why would hiring you be a good decision for them. This goes for normal interviews, but in a panel setting, there is more pressure on the candidate to ‘perform’. Some panel interviews can get a bit out of hand, so having practised answers to basic interview questions means that you can get on with the connection piece.
3. You must sell yourself better than other candidates. Often, we see that the best candidate doesn't get the job because they can't present themselves as strongly as another. Leave your "kiwi humble I won't talk myself up” attitude at the door and make sure that you are highlighting the things that make you great.
Something that has helped me over the years (to avoid the awkwardness of talking about how good I might be!) - is to talk about situations/events or outcomes that make me proud.
That you have made it to the panel interview means you can probably do the job. The two last hurdles to get over if whether you are a ‘culture fit’ and whether you are better than other candidates.
If you can (and you should be able to if you are working through an agency) - have a chat with the recruiter to find out what are your strengths and weaknesses compared to other people the employer is considering. Knowledge is power. Don’t leave your success to chance!
4. Much like an election campaign (!) - you must leave them with a sense of what you are about. If they hire you, what are they going to get? You need to decide what that is, but likely it will be aligned with the feel and understanding of what they are looking for. Paint what the future looks like with you in the role. Stand for something. It is better to not get the job because you don't have the same ideals and focus points, than not getting across what you are about and you ending up in a job that you’re not connected with.
5. If you’re nervous - acknowledge that early. Panel interviews are daunting. It's okay to be nervous - in fact it can endear you to the panel (mostly because they are all sitting there thankful that it is you and not them in the hot seat!). Acknowledging nerves means everyone can focus on the discussion (and it normally breaks down some barriers and people give you a bit more slack which is good). Remember - vulnerability is strength not a weakness.
6. If you find that you are reaching the end of the interview, but you haven't been able to get across something that you feel is important, then make sure that you bring it up. Sometimes panel interviews are awkward and don’t really ask the good stuff that allows you to show how epic you are. So you’ve got to do it yourself. The best time to do that is when they ask for your questions - then you can say something like: “This isn’t a question but I don't want to leave the meeting without making you aware of XXX”, or "something I wanted to talk about because I am passionate about/I learnt a lot from/I see as being important for this role is…” Give yourself the opportunity to shine and don’t leave it up to chance.
7. It seems simple, but smile! Many people seize up when they are nervous and don't connect well - the aim is to appear as cool and calm as possible (despite being petrified!!). When you are facing a panel - it is more nerve wracking, so give yourself the opportunity to smile. A simple smile allows connection, conveys confidence and when you are speaking with one person, the rest of the panel are looking at you, so looking at ease is so so important!
There are loads more tips but this will get you going. If you are facing a panel interview and want to run over a few questions about how to navigate it - give us a call! All the best!