A Panel Interview: Create a Great Impression

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    You’ve wanted this position for quite a while and you’ve now been invited to interview for the role of your dreams. There’s just one catch you’re not going to be facing one interviewer, you’ll be facing four all at the same time!

    A coaching client contacted me recently asking for help. He just found out he was one of three candidates vying for a position that he really wanted. And a panel would be interviewing each one. He’s confident doing one-on-one interviews but was concerned about how he should handle a panel.

    If visions of being put in front of a firing squad leap into your mind, you’re not alone. Panel interviews with three, four, even seven people are becoming the norm. This process allows those who will be directly involved with the new hire to give and get input. It also cuts down the cost and time associated with several rounds of traditional interviews.

    So what I told my client is that a panel interview is really just an expanded version of the one-on-one interview. So keep in mind the success factors for traditional interviews – be prepared, show enthusiasm, connect your experience to the job qualifications, answer questions clearly and precisely, etc.

    However, there are some differences. You will be facing a variety of different people, all of whom have different interests and different ways of evaluating you. Therefore,

    1. Find out if possible who (name and position) will be part of the panel.
    Will it be your boss and other managers? What about peers – people or the team you’ll be working with? Will HR also be represented? Then do research and each person so you can connect better with them.

    2. Identify the leader and pay attention to him or her.
    The person who brings you to the room or first greets you in the room may not be the leader. The leader is typically the one who explains the process and gets the interview underway. Give this person extra deference when answering the questions.

    3. Build rapport with each person.
    If comfortable, shake every one’s hand when you are introduced or at least smile and say something like “How do you do, I’m glad to meet you.” Listen carefully when you are introduced so you can use people’s names when you answer their questions. Continue to make eye contact with each one during the entire interview.

    4. Don’t focus just on one person.
    When a specific panel member asks a question, address your answer to him or her first and then the others. Realize each interviewer has his or her own issues they want addressed but you need to continually ‘work” the group.

    5. Link questions together.
    If Joe asks a question that touches on what Ann asked earlier, acknowledge how the questions, and your answers, are interrelated. The more you can address the needs of all panel members the better!

    Career Success Tip:

    A panel interview is an opportunity to impress many different people in the organization. It can be a great advantage if you get the job. You’ll have a head start in building relationships within the organization that can propel your career. So seize the opportunity with confidence and make the most of it.

    Do you want to develop Career Smarts?