Ordinary one-on-one interviews can be challenging enough, but hiring managers sometimes decide to make the selection process more efficient and gain a better sense of a candidate’s readiness by having him or her face a group of interviewers all at once, rather than a single person. This is often called a panel interview, and this interview format can take place in person or via conference call. In either case, the pressure on the applicant can be high. But remember, the rewards of such a situation rise along with the risk. Acing an interview conducted by a large, intimidating panel can be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Here are a few tips that can help you shine.
First, know what to expect. Don’t be caught off guard by the number of people in the room, and don’t be surprised or rattled by predictable questions. The following questions are very common and are likely to be asked no matter the circumstances:
Tell us about yourself.
What are you looking for, exactly?
Why should we hire you?
Second, breathe. Candidates in high pressure interviews often become tense and start taking short shallow breaths that contribute to the body’s general stress response. When this happens, thoughts can get panicky, speech can become rushed, and the stakes can seem higher than they actually are. Paying attention to your breathing will help you think clearly and maintain better control over your words and gestures.
Third, slow down. It’s natural to be nervous, and your audience will expect this to some degree. Rushing to answer every question and blurting jumbled responses will not impress anyone. Your interviewers set aside time to be here. They want to hear what you have to say. So don’t hurry. After each question, try to pause and gather your thoughts for a full second before you speak.
Forth, rein it in. Whatever “it” may be, take it down a notch. If you have the urge to joke, don’t. If you’re feeling a little overconfident, scale it back before you begin to sound arrogant. If you’re depending on the flash of your million-dollar smile, flash with restraint. Your personality will come through no matter what you do. That’s a good thing. Just don’t let any one aspect of your persona become over-exaggerated and steal focus from your words, your background, and your other fine qualities.
Finally, enter and exit with grace. Show up prepared, neatly dressed, and at least ten minutes early. Try not to sit until you’re invited to do so. Never interrupt your interviewers, and give your undivided attention to whoever is speaking at any given moment. When the interview ends, thank the interviewers, and remember to say goodbye before leaving the room.
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