Yikes! A Panel Interview

Anita,

I recently had an interview with the mid-level manager to whom I would report if hired. I was called back to set up a panel interview with his boss and two other managers including HR. I’m freaking out! Why do companies do this? I’m so nervous, how will I ever get through this inquisition without throwing up?

Dear, In a Tizzy Lizzy,

Business People at a MeetingCompanies may conduct panel interviews for various reasons. Consolidating multiple interviews is an efficient use of the numerous managers’ time. For that matter, the applicant’s time is respected as well; no need to take additional PTO for interviews #3 and #4 (and answer the same questions over and over). Hiring by consensus can overcome individual biases, and since applicants have more people to impress, panel interviews may raise the bar for talent selection. If department peers are involved in a team interview, a preview of the group work dynamic can be glimpsed.

Here are some tips to prepare for – and conquer – the panel interview.

  • Find out who will be on the interview committee. Then do some investigating. Check out their positions and profiles on the company website and LinkedIn. Google search for any news articles in which they may have been mentioned.
  • Rack your brains for questions each individual is likely to ask. You’ve already prepared for the standard interview fare, but put yourself in each interviewer’s shoes and imagine what they would like to know about you. While the HR Manager may be interested in that tiny gap in your employment many moons ago, the Sales Manager may be more interested in your stats and the accompanying conquering hero anecdotes.
  • At the introduction and handshake stage, ask for each person’s business card or jot down their names in the order they are seated. Those lightweight butterflies in the stomach can really kayo short-term memory recall.
  • Talk to them all. When answering one individual’s question, be sure to look at others on the panel as well. Like a comedy “callback,” make reference to earlier questions asked by other interviewers.
  • Win over the person most aloof. It may be easier to cozy up to the folks you can tell you’ve already impressed, but try to address the quiet note-taker’s concerns, particularly if he or she is high-ranking. Fret not, though, Lizzy. There’s unlikely to be a “good cop, bad cop” scenario in your panel interview as in this entertaining sketch from BBC’s That Mitchell and Webb Look:

  • Use those business cards you collected to address a thank you note to each individual on the panel.

Instead of dreading the panel interview, use it as an opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the corporate culture and view the team’s interpersonal dynamics. An interview is as much about you appraising the company as it is the company assessing you.

Readers: How have you aced a panel interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Why So Many Interviews?
The #1 Interview Question
Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews
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Advanced Degrees While Employed

Dear, Anita,

I currently have a demanding full-time job, and young children. I’d like to get an advanced degree so that I can obtain a better position.  Is going back to school while working doable?

Dear, Striving Student,

woman-with-booksI applaud your ambition. Furthering your education while working full-time is definitely doable, but is not for the faint of heart!

  • Explore Your Options. I’m not sure if you have your eyes on a higher position in your current company or if you are looking to jump ship after getting your next degree. Regardless, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager about your educational plans before you enroll. Some companies offer tuition assistance for a work-related graduate degree. Put together a presentation on how your degree would add value to the company.  If you are planning to go to a local college or university, you may need to ask your boss if your work schedule can be adjusted for the needed class times. An alternative is to find a grad program that allows you to take some or all of your courses online, greatly increasing a working student’s chances of success.
  • Expect to Sacrifice. Be prepared to start burning the candle at both ends. Your time management skills will be put to the test. For some helpful hints, check out my recent post Tips for Time Management. Even with a well-planned calendar, you are likely to be more stressed than your co-workers and other full-time grad students who are not working. But don’t expect special treatment on the job, or at school, because you are juggling both at once. Ask for favors, such as project extensions, as infrequently as possible. Your boss and your professor expect your performance to be the same as any other employee or student. Compartmentalize: Make sure you’re not finishing up your paper for school while on the clock at work. You’ll have to make sacrifices in your personal life, whether it is going on fewer social outings, cutting back your volunteer activities, even skipping some household chores. (There – you have my permission not to dust!)
  • Muster Your Support System. Ask for help from family and friends. Can your neighbor pick up your son from soccer practice on the nights you have to race from work to class? Can your buddy change the oil in your car to save you a half-day getting to and from the mechanic? Be creative. Offer to host study groups at your house, so you won’t have to find a babysitter. 

It may take a longer period of time to finish grad school while holding down your current job, but once you get that promotion or better job offer, you’ll have no regrets.

Readers: Have you obtained an advanced degree while working part- or full-time? Can you offer any tips on how to achieve a work-life-school balance?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Changing Jobs

Dear, Anita,

I just accepted a new position with my company and am very excited about the opportunity… yet at the same time, I’m feeling really nervous about the change. What are some ways I can overcome my fears?

Dear, “New and Nervous,”

ButterflyCongratulations on this new chapter in your career! Changing jobs is a part of life, and the fear that goes along with each change is only natural. Our human instinct is to stay within a certain comfort zone, develop habits, and stick with routines that are familiar to us. The idea of rocking the boat with change tends to heighten our anxieties and can create unwanted stress.

The key is to simply reset your frame of mind.

  1. Don’t look at change as a bad thing. This is a very exciting time for you! You need to embrace the opportunities that come with it. I often remind myself that life is not a dress rehearsal. We only get one chance to live our life (“YOLO” in Generation Y terms) – to grow, learn new things, and expand our horizons. If you find yourself stuck in a rut for any reason, it’s up to you to make a change for the better.
  2. Get through the fear of the unknown. Take a good look at what’s worrying you. Is it the money? The commute? The new routine? Make a list of all the things you’re concerned about and break down each item. More often than not, you’ll find that some of the things you’re concerned about are trivial – or anxieties you’ve built up in your head that can be easily addressed and resolved. I also think you’ll find that the things you fear most won’t actually happen to you.
  3. Live in the present. Dwelling on your past role or worrying about what your new position is going to be like will only drive you nuts. Don’t miss out on what’s happening TODAY; enjoy those feelings of anticipation and excitement. When you get into the groove of your new position, give it 100%.
  4. Be resourceful. The fact that you’re starting a new position with the same company gives you the upper hand. Most people go through the same jitters – and they’re starting fresh out the gate with little or no experience with the company or environment. Take advantage of the people and resources available to you. Most of your doubts and concerns will quickly fade away as you engage in your new position. Ask questions along the way, and learn everything there is to know about the role and what is expected of you. Once you have a clear picture in your head, you will quickly get into a new rhythm and find yourself in a new routine that works for you (just like the one you’re accustomed to now!)

All in all, change is good, and the time you spend at work should be stimulating, invigorating, and exciting. A friend once told me that if you don’t feel those little butterflies in your stomach anymore in your current role, then it’s time to make a change. So get out that butterfly net and go for it!

Best Wishes,

Anita

Readers: How have you handled the uncertainty that comes with either a promotion or a new job?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Want to receive these tips by email? Simply subscribe for once-a-week tips and tricks for career success!

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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