Most everyone dislikes panel or group interviews. It feels like your being ganged-up upon by 6, 8 or 10 people who are trying to ask you questions that you may not have answers.
In some ways panel interviews could mean the difference between getting the job or not. Why? If you’re better prepared and practiced, you will come out better than all the other candidates. So what is it you need to know? Here are a few inside tips:
There are basically two types of panel interviews:
- A peer group of homogenous functions like all scientists or all marketing people
- A mix of functions from different disciplines, like sales, finance, operations, HR, and so on
Peer group member concerns: Is this candidate technically competent in their field of expertise; will they fit into our community of experts; and will they work well together with us. These are people who have successfully worked together and want to know if the new person will “fit in” and advance their efforts.
With a mixed panel of different functions, the questions are: “Will you add value to the organization, interface and help me with my issues?” and “Will you be as good as, or better than, the person you are replacing?” The comparison to the prior incumbent is normal. Finding out their history can be very important.
How do you handle the panel interview? Your preparation and research is imperative.
First, request the name of each participant, his or her title, function and reporting relationship. This information should be readily available to you. You want to make sure you get it all correct so you don’t embarrass them or you.
Next, Google each individual to obtain information that will be helpful to you during the interview: Prior history, education, level of responsibilities and anything else you can learn. Why? Many times this information will help you understand the nature and reason for their questions, issues they may have or their specific interest in this function.
Most people will ask questions that relate to their own job and how you may or may not affect their performance, results or future needs. Their quest for information is basically driven by the question, “What is this person going to do for me?” The exceptions are senior management and your potential boss. Senior management is looking longer term at your potential for greater contribution to the organization. Your potential boss is looking at the questions, “Can this person help me solve my current issues?” and “Will this person make me look good over the longer term?”
A successful panel interview can accelerate your candidacy. Plan to meet the challenge.
Contact Bill Kaufmann with questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org