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,
Companies 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?
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