Being told that you are to attend a Panel interview for the position for which you applied, can often make job applicants intensely nervous, simply because this seems so much more intimidating and significant than an individual interview, but in reality it is only different in terms of the level of formality and consideration, the number and backgrounds of people involved and the type of data analysis and evaluation which will occur after the process. In essence it is still an interview – just one which affords you the opportunity to prove your competence to a variety of people.
As a starting point you need to change your mindset and view the prospective panel as a valuable opportunity to show your professionalism and prove your worth to the assembled group. View it as beneficial that there are likely to be technical experts in the field, an HR representative, line managers and senior leadership present as this should ensure a thorough process and give you a chance to prove your diverse skills. Resolve to make the most of it, by preparing thoroughly and by enjoying the opportunity to meet a group of company management face to face. The fact that you have been shortlisted for a panel means that you meet the requirements of the position and have been singled out with a select few as worthy of further consideration. With this mindset, you then need to start to do thorough preparation.
This entails the following:
1. Work on your communication and impact which are two observable dimensions which will be assessed throughout the interview and undoubtedly carry weight in determining what may be the differentiating edge between two solid technically matched individuals. Carefully plan your dress, practise your greeting and goodbye, objectively consider the attitude and vibe you emanate, your potential risk areas (examples might be talking too much or coming across as over confident) and ask for the names of panelists in advance so that you can memorize and use these.
2. Also work on your body language which needs to project confidence and energy yet not suggest over confidence or pushiness. Use a mentor or coach to work with you in a practice interview role-play. Consider eye contact in the panel context as you need to focus on the person who asked the question yet also include other panelists.
3. Build on your right mental attitude. Use positive affirmations to build your confidence and eliminate mental doubts and anxieties by telling yourself to switch off the negative voice in your head as soon as it occurs. Believe in yourself. Be very clear in articulating your value add as it relates to the position and the company.
4. Go over the technical requirements of the position and ensure that you are well versed in these. Go over any relevant legislation or technical knowledge required as any thorough panel Interview should contain technical knowledge questions linked to the knowledge and technical skills required in the position.
5. For more senior positions requiring formal presentation ability, it is common to ask that panelists prepare a short presentation (normally ten minutes) If this is the case, ensure that you prepare thoroughly and keep it simple. Brainstorm clear and logical content headings and put only the main ideas on the slides. Practise your presentation, ask for feedback and apply this. Finally ensure that you have technical back up and bound colour copies for each panelist.
6. In the panel, have a pen and paper at hand, listen carefully and if necessary check your understanding of the question asked. Do not rush into a hasty answer. Take a few seconds to organise and think through your answer and do not feel uncomfortable if this leads to a few minutes of silence. You are being rated on your answers, thus concise and relevant responses are vital. Work on giving specific examples based on previous career experience rather than talking generally or subjectively.
7. Expect to be asked to tell the panel about yourself, to clarify your career objective two or five years from now, to highlight your strengths and developmental areas and to ask any questions which you might have. With regard to the latter, ensure you have researched the company website and that you ask relevant job related questions rather than information about salary, leave or special benefits at this stage. You might also enquire about the next steps in the process.
View the opportunity to be interviewed by a Panel as valuable career experience and an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the ethos and values of the company you are considering joining. You need to be assured that this will be a positive and worthwhile step for you career wise. In this light, if you are subsequently regretted, congratulate yourself on being one of the selected few who qualified for this, express your thanks but request feedback on the panel process so that you can apply this in preparation for your next panel interview.