Then you hang up and think, Yikes! What do I do at a PANEL interview?
OK, what exactly IS a panel, or group interview? It is where a group of (usually) managers interviews the candidate. This normally takes place only after the candidate has had a first or even a second interview. Often, the panel interview is where the actual hiring decision is made.
Most of the time, the person who sets up the interview will tell you who is on the panel, by name and title. If they do not tell you who is on the panel it is OK to ask for the name and title of those who will be participating
Chances are the people on the panel will be from different areas of the company, such as the CEO, the Executive VP of Marketing, the Human Resources Director and the Sales Manager.
Frequently, the manager who initially interviewed you will be present also. Do not assume that you don’t need to impress that person all over again. Let’s say you are interviewing for the position of Director of Marketing. You know the culture of the company and you know the type of person the manager is, because he has already interviewed you. Use that to your advantage. Always reference your original interview to show that you were listening and picked up on what the manager wants in the person they hire.
12 Steps to a Successful Panel Interview
1. Know your Goals, and be prepared to articulate them: Where do you see yourself in five years from now? What do you want to be when you “grow up”?
2. Attire: Make sure you are dressed for success. (See my blog, “You Are What You Wear!)
3. Resumes/References: Bring resumes and references for everyone. As soon as you sit down, hand out your resume with your references to each manager.
4. Research the company and the managers who will participate in the interview: Before the first interview, you should have researched the company and found out everything you could about them. In the original interview, the manager should have explained the job description. In this interview, use all this information to your advantage.
5. Introducing yourself the right way is critical: Give a firm handshake to each person you meet, and look each person in the eye while saying hello, using that manager’s name.
6. Be prepared for all types of questions: During this interview, you will be asked questions about what you know and what your experience has been in your specialized area. The HR director may ask you about the technical aspects of the company and ask behavioral interview questions: “Tell us about yourself” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Each manager will be looking at your background in a different way. For example: The marketing manager wants to know what strategies you have used or what you designed for the department. The CEO might ask, “Why should I hire you?” The Sales Manager may ask you to explain how you increased the sales at your previous company to describe a marketing project that you developed.
Be prepared to answer these questions using the STAR approach: Recall a Situation or Task, describe the Action and Results. Tell a quick story backing up whatever you say. Start by looking at the person who asked the question, then look at each manager in turn, ending by looking at the original questioner. Keep it short and sweet, no more than 90 seconds.
7. Your eye contact is very important: While you are answering each question, take turns looking at everyone, not favoring one person over another. Start and end by looking at the one who asked the question.
Jeff was asked to give a presentation at his panel interview. The group consisted of 5 new managers, plus his potential boss with whom he had previously interviewed. The set up of the room was awkward. The manager was sitting off to the side of the room. She said, “I am not going to hire Jeff. He didn’t look at me once during the presentation.” She had planned to give him an offer when the presentation was over, but she felt that, since he disrespected her during the panel interview, he would not respect her as a boss.
8. Body language is critical: Stand and sit up straight. Keep a smile on your face as much as you can. Are your fingers tapping the desk? Are your arms crossed? Keep your arms down on your lap. Sometimes we unconsciously mirror what the other person is doing, so be careful not to do that. Show enthusiasm and keep your energy high throughout the interview. See my Blog,”2 Steps Forward, 1 Step back at www.askbestinterviewquestions.com.
9. Don’t dominate the conversation. Allow the managers to control the interview.
10. Asking them questions: Some questions for you to ask are: Looking directly at the Sales Manager: “What were the sales last year?” Looking directly at the HR Director and your prospective boss: “What do you expect of me in the first 90 days?” Or you could say, “I was going to ask you what you expected in the first 90 days, but So and So already answered that. If you don’t have any questions, you can say, “At this time I do not have any questions because you have answered them all.
11. Ask for the job! Most people are afraid to ask for the job at the end of the interview. Doing so lets them know that you are interested. Ask it at the end of the interview by saying something like, “I enjoyed meeting with each of you. I am interested in pursuing this further and look forward to hearing from you. What is the next step?” Start this conversation with the person who originally interviewed you, look at everyone else while asking the question and finish by looking at the original person again.
12. Thank you notes: You should send one to each manager, very briefly recapping some piece of conversation that you had with him or her individually. Reiterate that you are interested in the job.
Don’t let the panel interview scare you. Remember, stay calm, think before answering any question, and use direct eye contact. Most importantly, have fun!
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Cindy Cannon, principal of Growth Management Group, provides career assessment and advancement advice and assistance derived from 25 years of recruitment experience in over 2,000 hires. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 945-5445 EXT 300
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