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As many of us will know, there are a plethora of different interview types and recruitment methods. It all comes down to the employer and their recruitment strategy. Panel interviews are often used in graduate recruitment scenarios as well as within a number of businesses, so knowing the score ahead of the meeting will put you in the best possible position.
While a panel interview might not be your preferred approach, many businesses like them as they’re often a quick one-round process, plus it tests candidates’ behaviour in a group setting. Keep calm and maintain open body language, acknowledging all of your interviewers throughout the interview.
Know your interviewers
Typically, a panel will be made up of different individuals from different departments, so they’re likely to review your CV with different considerations in mind. For example, if you’re interviewing for an operations manager role, the panel might be made up of your direct manager, an HR manager, the MD and the administration manager.
Each is likely to consider your responses differently, which means it will pay to know who’s on the panel in advance. If you can’t do this, ensure you pay extra special attention at the introductory stage. This will come in useful with knowing how to frame your responses.
How to respond
Once you have a solid understanding of who’s in the room, you can begin to connect with the interviewers, both individually and as a group. To do this, answer each question directly – but enhance your response with details relevant to the different perspectives in the room. For example, if one interviewer asks you to define your ability to prioritise different tasks, you might respond with an example such as, “Every day, I work to a to-do list that gets continuously updated. I won’t ever cancel 1:1 meetings with my direct reports because they should never feel like they’re not a priority. I might delegate the lower priority items to a team member to ensure they’re not missed, and action the high priority things myself so I’m safe in the knowledge they’re dealt with quickly and effectively.” By giving an example like the above, you’re addressing the concerns of your department head, as well as other departments who might want to know their needs won’t be compromised.
Beware of rapid fire questioning
To succeed in an interview format where the questions feel like a spitfire attack, sometimes you’ll need to stand your ground. If an interviewer asks you a question before you finish answering the previous one, consider if the rest of your response is critical for the interviewers to know. If not, move on. If it is, politely mention you’d like to share a final thought before answering their question. Try and control your own pace as far as possible, or you might otherwise feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Prepare for the follow up
In a panel situation, one response to one interviewer may spark the curiosity of another, so you may find yourself talking through your experiences from multiple angles. This means you’ll need to go in armed with comprehensive anecdotes and stories to ensure you have plenty to talk about!
Panel interviews can certainly present their fair share of challenges, however try preparing with a group of friends, encouraging them to probe you as much as possible in different areas. For any further training and guidance, contact your consultant. And good luck!