By Judi Perkins
With so much at stake for job seekers, some companies have made the hiring process increasingly grueling. Three, four, and five-step interviewing processes aren't uncommon. Being interviewed by five or six people consecutively is also a favored technique. But perhaps the worst is the panel interview. If remaining focused and aware of your presentation is difficult one-on-one, facing multiple people concurrently can be a nightmare.
Look Beyond the Panel
Knowing the ratio of people to jobs during times of unemployment, many job seekers give away their power, focusing too much on themselves, and often neglect to take into consideration: how the interviewers think, how they make decisions, and what they're looking for. It's time to take charge of your part of the interview.
Panel interviews are sometimes strategized in advance so questions won't overlap, be neglected, or be fired "willy-nilly" at the candidate. Understanding some of the psychological components in order to behave accordingly, can alleviate much of your stress and fears.
Here are five insights for your next panel interview:
- Not everyone on the panel has equal say, so don't assume the person who speaks the most carries the greatest weight. Don't risk trivializing the other interviewers; it won't bode well for you at decision-making time.
- Give each member of the panel equal eye time when you answer, rather than speaking only to the person who asked the question - this is both courteous and respectful.
- It's okay to ask one person a question. Look straight at them and preface your question with their name. Otherwise you risk an answer from anyone who chooses to step in, and who may be the most political, smoothest, or heaviest hitter in the group.
- It's also okay to ask open questions during the process. When you're finished answering a question, tack on a question about the same topic. It not only provides you with knowledge about the topic being discussed, but it gives you insight into the panel members. Watch the group dynamics. Equal distribution of responses and deferring answers to the person best suited to address the question indicates mutual respect for each other's knowledge and area of responsibility.
- Take notes, but not so scrupulously you neglect to maintain eye contact. Jot down the interviewer's name when it's relevant, because it will facilitate writing your thank you letters. As one paragraph of each letter should be custom, you'll show great attention to detail by addressing specific comments or issues that person brought up.
Purpose of a Panel Interview
The intention of the panel is to gain multiple perspectives on your knowledge, skills, and fit with the company, not to back you up against the wall. Listen to your internal dialogue. Your thoughts determine your demeanor and your words, which affect the panel's decision.
Waiting to be spoken to and playing up to the person you think is the big cheese will gain you fewer points, not more. Failing to consider the others in the decision process will be interpreted as arrogance and depict you as someone with whom the others don't want to work.
Skills are only part of the equation. The rest of it is who you are. When you give each panel member equal attention and consideration, your personality enhances your skills. When you slide into behavior that indicates self importance or lack of composure, your great skills become irrelevant.
About the Author:
Judi Perkins, the How-To Career Coach, was a recruiter for 22 years and worked with hundreds of hiring authorities on entry level through CEO. She's seen half a million resumes, set up over 15,000 interviews and now teaches sequence, structure and focus, showing why typical strategies often fail. She's been on numerous TV shows, is a regular radio guest, and is quoted in multiple books and career articles. She's also a syndicated columnist, and heard regularly on KVOT Thursday mornings. You can find her at FindThePerfectJob.com.