Many lawyers are gifted speakers; they can hold a room captive, respond to questions on their feet and do it all with confidence and poise. However, on more than one occasion, we have seen lawyers choke during panel interviews. One of the benefits of using a recruiter is that we often receive detailed feedback on a candidate’s performance during an interview and, based on the feedback we have received over the years, it seems that even strong candidates may struggle when placed in a panel interview situation.
The next time you find yourself facing a panel interview, keep these tips in mind:
- Control the pace of your interview: As this article notes, it is important not to let a panel interview devolve into “rapid fire” style questioning as the interviewers rush to get their individual questions in. As a candidate, you need to control of the pace of the interview and take the time you need to consider and respond to each question fully. However, you should also keep in mind the need to balance this pacing with moving through questions in a succinct manner so that each member of the panel has the chance to ask the questions they feel are important to assess your candidacy.
- Unite the panel: The key to a successful panel interview is to make sure you include all interviewers throughout your responses so that each one feels they have been able to connect with you. As this article explains, this can be done in many ways including by making eye contact with all panelists during your responses and by cross referencing a question from a previous interviewer during your answers.
- Keep each interviewer’s perspective in mind: Panels may contain interviewers from different groups within the organization including HR, management and the business units. When answering, you should keep the background of your interviewer in mind and tailor your response so that it is relevant to the concerns someone from that group would have for the individual in your position. Again, this will help each interviewer to connect with you.
- There are advantages for the candidate: The panel interview process often gives you the opportunity to meet more people from the company than you would during a typical interview process. This gives you the chance to gain additional insight on your potential co-workers as well as a glimpse into the company’s culture. Is one person clearly dominating the interview? Are the interviewers interrupting each other or does there seem to be a give and take amongst them? Use your interview as an information gathering tool that will aid you later in the decision-making process.
Don’t let this interview format throw you off your game – the preparation is really the same as any other interview (and for advice on general interview preparation, see our previous blog on interview tips). Instead, relax, and view panel interviews as an opportunity rather than a hurdle.
Jennifer is a Recruitment and Communications Consultant with The Heller Group. She is actively involved in the recruitment and placement of lawyers into law firms and corporations and is also responsible for the corporate communications related to The Heller Group. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys travelling, curling and spending time with friends and family.
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