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The panel interview: How to ace it

You’re on one side of the table. The panel of interviewers is on the other. It can be intimidating but not if you’re properly prepared.

Kate Prior, Chief Executive Officer of face2face Recruitment, has helped candidates get ready for panel interviews. Here are 9 essential steps Kate says will help you ace that interview.

Step 1—never walk in blind

If you’re working with a recruiter, talk to them about who will be on the panel and then check out individual panel members on the organisation’s website or social media.

If you’re not working with a recruiter, talk to the company contact you’ve been dealing with to organise your interview. Ask if they can provide panelist names, and perhaps a bit about each one, such as their titles.

You can also easily research panel members yourself by checking out their LinkedIn profiles. At the very least, this will help you put a face to a name at your interview. It will also position you to understand where in the organisation the panelists fit, how senior they are and what their interests are.

Step 2—think through content

If you’re working with a recruiter, tease out the types of questions you could be asked and think about the answers in advance, making sure they’re relevant to the position description and criteria.

Practice your answers. Think about career successes you want to talk about and big results you’ve achieved.

Importantly, read these free articles face2face has prepared to support you:

Step 3—be calm and carry on

Remember, that the panel isn’t there to intimidate or scare you, regardless of how many interviewers are on the other side of that table. They’re there to get to know you and understand more about your experience, skills and how you’ll fit into their culture and on their team.

From an organisational perspective, having more than one panel member also teases our different perspectives all in one go, which saves the organisation time.

Take deep breaths from the stomach before you enter the room and keep breathing slowly during the interview to stay relaxed and calm. This will help you look and sound confident.

Don’t forget to smile and speak at a steady pace, not a rushed pace, which will only make you sound anxious.

Step 4—don’t focus solely on one panel member

When responding to a question, don’t just focus on the person who asked it. Make eye contact with all panel members. This is your opportunity to engage with all panelists to showcase your interpersonal skills and confidence.

Step 5—Watch your body language

Sit upright with your shoulders straight. Avoid shuffling in your seat or tapping your fingers or your feet which will make you look nervous. Don’t play with your pen or anything else on the table in front of you.

Watch this great video on the power of body language.

 Step 6–ask your own question

It’s not unusual for a panel to ask if you have any questions so think of some in advance; don’t just sit in stony silence.

Trawl through the company website for ideas on what you can ask. Keep it short and sweet, however. This is not the time for you to dig in and interrogate panel members.

Here are two sample questions:

  1. What would be your expectations of the candidate in the first three months?
  2. I notice on your website that you mention [add topic]. Could you tell me a little more about that?

Step 7—read Resume Success Secrets, which includes bonus interview tips

Kate wrote Resume Success Secrets and included bonus interview tips to help candidates out. The book rose to be a #1 Best Seller on Amazon for its category. It’s easy (and inexpensive) to buy online:

Step 8—dress for the occasion

Dressing for success is essential when heading to an interview. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a $500 suit, but if you’re not neat, clean, tidy and dressed at an appropriate level for the position, you won’t be doing yourself a favour.

Here’s another useful face2face article:

Step 9—Ace the ending with a thanks

At the end of the interview you should stand up and shake hands with individual panel members—using their name if you can remember them—and thank them for taking the time to meet you.

If you have the contact details for panel members, send them an email letting them know you found the interview informative and are still interested in the role (or are not interested if that’s the case).

If going through a recruiter, contact them and let them know your thoughts on how the interview went and if you’re still interested in the role.

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