What can you expect when invited to attend a panel interview?
The panel interview is one of the most structured interviews you are likely to attend. It is likely to feel fairly serious and it’s worth keeping this in mind. You need to spend quality time preparing for this type of interview. This is definitely not the type of interview you can rock up and wing it on the day.
This type of interview is commonly used in the public sector. The main reason for using this style of interview is to achieve a fair, consistent and objective process. And, the reason for this is to reduce bias, unconscious bias and ultimately discrimination occurring during the recruitment process.
Panel interview format
There are usually three or more interviewers on the panel. Although, just because there are three people in an interview doesn’t mean it’s a panel interview. These people are supposed to be key stakeholders who have an interest in the person hired for the position.
Therefore, you can expect your future manager to be on the panel, someone from the business (stakeholder or client) and potentially a representative from HR. They may even have someone neutral on the panel.
The set-up is typically a table with all the interviewers in a straight line. The candidate is often sitting a distance away from the interviewers and they won’t normally have a table in front of them.
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What type of questions will be asked?
It’s highly likely the interviewers will be asking the tough behavioural competency type questions. The interviewers will expect you to share specific examples. There is unlikely to be much, if any probing questions.
This is normally because they want to keep the interview process as fair and consistent as possible. The absence of any probing or gathering of further information means you know to make sure you share enough information to satisfy the interviewers you are capable of doing the job.
How do you prepare for a panel interview?
As with most interviews, the key is in preparation and practice. Some candidates are good at preparation but don’t necessarily practise what they have prepared. Both parts are really important. Particularly, as mentioned above, you are highly likely to be asked behavioural competency style questions. So, you will need to prepare specific examples to share during the interview.
When you are preparing your specific examples be sure to over-prepare almost. Using the S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action and Results) process to prepare would be useful. Make sure you cover all the aspects of the S.T.A.R.
The biggest mistakes some candidates make when using the S.T.A.R. process is giving too much information about the situation, limited information or evidence of the Tasks and Actions and not much information about the results.
So, that’s why it’s a problem for you if the interviewers don’t probe for additional information. If you don’t share the right information in your answers they won’t probe and consequently, they won’t have enough evidence to make their decision.
Hopefully, you will receive a full job description and you should use this information to base all your preparation. Read all the information thoroughly and pick up reoccurring themes and be sure to think of occasions you can share to demonstrate your match to the job.
There may be a section dedicator to behavioural competencies and that will make things a lot easier. Consider times from your past experience where you feel you’ve demonstrated these behaviours and write out the full event using the S.T.A.R template as your guide.
Once you have a few specific examples prepared, evaluate the example and make a note of all the competencies you’ve demonstrated.
For example, if you’ve planned and organised an event from start to finish, it’s likely you’ve demonstrated other competencies. While planning and organising the event, you may have had to communicate to stakeholders, team members, suppliers, venues, caterers etc. In the same example, you may have also met deadlines, prioritised, negotiated etc.
Thinking about other competencies in your examples will give you lots of flexibility during the interview. We suggest preparing at least 4-6 full specific examples.
As well as the behavioural competency type questions, it’s also worth spending some time preparing and practising the common questions that are asked in most interviews.
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why should we hire you?
- What do you bring to the role?
- Why are you leaving your current/last job?
- What attracts you to our company and this job?
All these commonly asked questions do need some careful consideration. Again, use the job description to prepare your answers. Recruiters want to hear you are genuinely motivated for the job and fit to the company culture, and they want to be confident you can do the job.
So, the tell me about yourself is not a random ice-breaker necessarily. It’s a question to gather your fit to the job, company and assess your motivation.
Most of the information we gather when we are interacting with each other is through non-verbal body language. For example, facial expressions, eye contact, posture, and gestures etc. In other types of interviews, we can pick up on these non-verbal cues and adjust accordingly.
However, a panel interview tends to be a serious affair and the non-verbal body language will be too subtle for most of us to pick up on. It’s worth keeping this in mind to understand it’s normal.
This is not an interview you can win with your personality alone. You must be prepared to demonstrate your ability and capability. You need to ensure the panel members are equally as confident you are able and capable to do the job.
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