One of my LinkedIn connections recently posted asking for advice ahead of a panel interview, and I rather hastily put together an eight-point reply with some of my tips. Since my comment received a few positive responses, I thought it would be good to create a blog post, but with a few more minutes thought put into it, to flesh out the guidance.
1. Know your CV and application – review it the night before. If there are any parts of your application or CV you feel are weak or need explaining (gaps, bad grades, lack of experience) don’t feel you have to justify these. Being aware of weak spots or possible tricky questions is good – have an answer prepared, but don’t go in to the interview feeling like you need to explain yourself.
2. Do some research on the organisation and, if you know who is interviewing you, the panel. That way you look well-prepared, interested and also should have some well-informed questions up your sleeve for the end of the interview.
3. Have an idea about answers to some of the more common competency-based questions (e.g. describe a time when…,how do you deal with…,strengths/weaknesses, etc.)
4. See a panel interview as an opportunity: more people = a higher chance you’ll connect with one and make a great impression.
5. Be yourself – it sounds basic, but authenticity, being genuine and having integrity are so important. People can sense when you’re being fake, or just saying what you think they want to hear. Don’t be afraid to show that you’re a little different either!
6. Pause before you answer – think about what you’re going to say. There’s no harm in there being a brief silence while you gather your thoughts.
7. Remember that you’re also interviewing them! Interviews aren’t a one-way process – if you don’t gel, then chances are the company isn’t for you, and vice versa. One thing I would highly recommend is having a question or two lined up for them. Inevitably you will be asked at the end of your interview if you have any questions, and it is good to be able to look engaged, well-researched and responsive by asking a couple of questions. If you know the interviewers work in a specific team – why not ask them about their work? If you are interested in pro bono opportunities but haven’t covered that in the interview – now is a good time to ask. It’s your time to take centre-spotlight without any constraints so take the opportunity and use it!
8. Plan your journey to the interview before – factor in public transport delays, or traffic jams so that you can arrive in good time.
9. Be aware of your body language – fiddling with your hair or your watch or generally fidgeting can be distracting and convey that you are nervous or uncomfortable. Try to place your hands in your lap at the beginning of your interview to avoid temptation, and place both your feet firmly on the floor (this also helps you feel grounded; an extra bonus). Once you start talking – if you gesticulate or ‘talk with your hands’ a lot – be aware that this can also be distracting (although I personally feel that a little movement shows confidence and that you are relaxed).
10. Breathe and smile! They like you enough to spend an hour or so interviewing you, so believe that you have a shot at getting the job!
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