Six tips for when you’re faced with an interview panel
10th May 2016
Author: Nicola Slawson
Research your interviewers, engage the whole panel and remember that they want you to do well, say the experts.
Research your interviewers
You may feel like a stalker but doing a bit of digging before the interview to find out the names, roles and responsibilities of those on the panel is wise, says Cathy Lovell, student services manager for the Open University. “Use LinkedIn as a resource to research the team interviewing you. This will give you a chance to brainstorm possible questions and practise answers.”
Claire Jenkins, job interview expert and founder of 121 Interview Coaching, agrees. “This is where LinkedIn really is fantastic for preparing. It’s a chance to see what your interviewers look like and a great opportunity to find if you have anything in common with them.”
Prepare, but don’t memorise answers
Preparation is key but be careful not to script your answers. “I’ve seen too many candidates go into blind panic if they can’t remember the exact flow and wording of what they wanted to say,” says Hannah Morton-Hedges, careers adviser and managing director of Momentum Careers Advice.
“You need to be prepared to think on your feet to answer the exact question they have asked and not fall into that problem of trying to fit your rehearsed answer around the question.”
To get round this, Victoria McLean, founder of CityCV.co.uk, advises preparing and practising out loud for typical types of questions you are likely to be asked. “You know you will be asked about your motivation and about your strengths, about a weakness or a failing, as well as a biographical question so try to prepare a loose answer for each of these genres.”
Manage your nerves
A panel interview is enough to bring out the nerves in even the most calm interviewee but it’s worth remembering that the panelists want you to do well, says Bev White, managing director of Penna Career Services. “Knowing that, breathe slowly and deeply before you go in, drop your shoulders and smile as that is a great way to let go of tension.”
Before going in, she recommends a technique called “the rule of five” to let go of anxiety. “Say out loud the answer to the following questions: what five things can you see? What five things are touching me now? What five things can I hear now? What five things can I taste now? What five things can I smell now?
“Saying these out loud has a positive affect on reducing or eliminating anxiety. Try it, it works,” adds White.
Engage the whole panel
Building a rapport during in an interview is hard enough when there are only one or two people to focus on, but there are techniques you can use to make it easier when faced with a whole panel.
“It is natural to focus attention on the one who makes us feel most comfortable – usually the ‘good cop’ – but this can exclude the others,” says Morton-Hedges.
While you should answer the person who actually asked you the question, you should try and make them all feel included, she says. “Use wide hand gestures and make eye contact with all. General good rapport building skills – smiling, and being upbeat – will be noted by everyone on the panel, not just the person asking the question.”
When sitting in the hot seat, it’s easy to imagine the panellists are judging you negatively. “This is often referred to as mind reading where we imagine they think we are rubbish or don’t know what we are talking about,” says Sarah Connell, a business psychologist and founder of MindingMe Psychologists.
Be mindful of these unhelpful thoughts and challenge them by asking yourself what evidence you have that they think you’re rubbish, Connell says. “Replace the negative thought with something more helpful, for example, ‘This is a great opportunity and the interviewer wants to hear what I have to say’.”
“We often think they are there to try to catch us out but I know from my experience interviewing that I am really pleased when someone is doing well. Remember they are on your side,” she adds.
Don’t forget body language
“Non-verbal messages are just as important as verbal ones,” says Rachel Locke, adviser for the National Careers Service. “Positive body language such as maintaining eye contact, good posture, leaning towards your questioner; all convey enthusiasm and interest.”
Lisa LaRue, a qualified career coach and founder of CareerWorx, recommends practising body language with a friend or family member. “Get them to give you some feedback on how you come across including posture, eye contact, tone and pitch of voice, and facial expressions.”
“During the interview your aim is to come across as natural, confident and relatively relaxed. There’s a fine balance between appearing over confident, or arrogant, and too relaxed or disinterested.”
Thanks to The Guardian for allowing icould.com to republish this article. You can view the original version on the Guardian website.