Why panel interviews? Panel interviews give companies the chance to have a number of relevant personnel present at a single interview. After all it is somewhat unfeasible to have candidates return for multiple interviews just so that everyone can have a say in the hiring decision. Each of those people on the panel will have their own area of expertise – HR, line managers and other senior personnel who will all want to make sure prospective candidates fit the role from all aspects. Because ultimately, whilst your suitability for the job from a technical and experience perspective may be spot on, it's entirely possible that you may not fit the culture of the company. And that's something perhaps only an HR person could reliably assess.
So prepare to be prepared. Here are a few tips I've found that should help you prepare successfully for that 'dreaded' panel interview. Incidentally, they also work well in regular one on one interviews too!
Tip number one is to always remember that by the time you get to a panel interview, you've usually reached a short list of the top candidates. Companies don't generally waste their exec's valuable time having them attend panel interviews just to sort the chaff from the grain. That should give you a big confidence boost right there. The company is interested in you. And it also pays to bear in mind that they aren't conducting a panel interview to intimidate either – it's all about convenience (for them).
Tip number two is all about doing your research. Find out who will be on the panel – you want names, positions and hopefully an idea of what they look like so you know who is who. A call to the recruitment office should give you their names and hopefully their positions. Armed with this information you can then check the company's website or sites like LinkedIn and see what you can find out about them, including photos. That way, when you walk into that interview room they'll already feel like old friends. Sort of! Plus you'll know from their responsibilities the types of questions they're likely to ask and the information they'll be interested in. If one of them is in OH & S for instance you can bet they'll be asking questions about your attitude to safety! It's also a good idea to find out how long the interview will last because you really don't want to plan another appointment afterwards then find out during the interview that you won't be able to make it.
Tip number three – work on your confidence. If you're the type of person who enjoys public speaking this probably won't be a huge issue for you but for many of us the thought of public speaking, and that's kind of what this is, is daunting. Being familiar with a topic or topics always builds confidence so in addition to tip number two, also do your research on the company and on the role you're being interviewed for in relation to the company.
Tip number four is making sure you know what skill sets are required for this position. If you're being interviewed for a position as mine manager on a particular mine, make it your duty to find out everything you can about that mine. This will give you the confidence that comes from knowing your subject matter. You'll be able to ask relevant questions and discuss the benefits you'll bring to the company as the manager of that mine. Which brings us to tip number five….
Tip number five is prepare a list of questions for the panel because it's not just the panellists who can ask them! And chances are great to good that they'll be expecting you to ask a few. Questions indicate that you're interested enough in the position and the company to want to find out more. It's also a good idea to prepare questions that you can direct at each of the panel members relating to their expertise and position in the company. You'll know what these are because you've done your homework as per tip number 1. Take notes with you if you need to. You're allowed to do. They'll give you confidence and if you get a mental blank at any point, a quick look at your notes may help refresh your memory. You can also make notes during the interview too.
Tip number six is - plan what you're going to wear carefully because first impressions do count. This should be a no-brainer but you'd be surprised what people do wear to job interviews!
In The Interview
Tip number seven – be sure to make eye contact. From the minute you walk in the door, look those panellists in the eye with confidence. When you're talking, look directly at the person you're talking to. But don't forget to include the rest of the panel either. A good tip here during a long answer is to scan the panel as you're speaking, making eye contact with each one before returning to the person who asked the question.
Tip number eight – be enthusiastic and positive. Walk in there with confidence and energy. Let them know by your attitude that you're keen as mustard about this job and about working for the company. Enthusiasm is contagious and it also tells them something about your personality too. Plus it will help make you feel more confident.
Tip number nine - remember to speak slowly and clearly. Rehearse if you have to – combine rehearing how you'll answer with what you'll answer with. There are sites that offer sample questions you can use to practice with.
Tip number ten – be familiar with what you've put on your resume and what you've put down about any past projects you've done. If they ask you questions about any of this stuff you don't want to be caught out because you've forgotten you included it! For that matter, when you put in your application you should have made sure it was up to date.
Tip number eleven – expect to be put under a bit of pressure. Although most companies don't deliberately set out to intimate prospective hires, they may nevertheless need to ask the hard questions. Doing your homework should give you a fair idea of what those hard questions are likely to be and allow you to work out how to answer them.
And finally, when you finish the interview, shake hands with everyone and thank them for their time.
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