Dreading the Panel Interview?

You have made it through the initial telephone screen with the recruiter and the next step is to be interviewed by a panel.  That can be nerve wracking and it seems like a lot of judging by 2-5 people at one time. For companies, it makes a lot of sense because it takes the least amount of time for them and for you it gets you in and out quickly.   But, how do you remain calm and answer the questions in a way that keeps you in the running as a top candidate?   My top 12 pointers are:


  1. Investigate interviewers.  Learn as much as possible about each interviewer. Often, the panel consists of a human resources professional, your direct supervisor, others from the department or cross functional team leaders/members you may work with.  Ask the person who is setting up the interview the names of the panel members and their functions.  It is helpful to know if you are being evaluated by only the team whom you will be working with on a daily basis or whether it is a mix of department heads/members.  For example, if you are being hired for a mergers and acquisitions project management role, you would have several stakeholders, e.g. finance, human resources, and legal.  Then, use LinkedIn to read up on each person’s background … or if you have an inside track into the organization, try to uncover facts about their reputation and work style.
  2. Think of the questions that may be asked by the panel.  Thoughtfully write out your answers and rehearse with a buddy or a coach.
  3. Memorize names. Addressing each person by their name is professional and indicates your respect for them.  Be sure to list their names on your writing pad before you enter the room, just in case you have a memory lapse.
  4. Reduce nerves. Adrenalin and nerves come with the territory.  Take 10 minutes before the interview to take deep breaths and visualize success.  If you are by yourself in a holding area, you can pace back and forth or walk as it reduces anxiety and increases memory.  Take a bottle of water into the room just in case they don’t have beverages.
  5. Take notes. Bring your writing pad to jot down key points you want to follow-up on.  Just be sure to ask permission to take notes.  Everyone always says yes and it indicates you want to be thorough.
  6. Tell us about yourself. Be prepared to go into your short synopsis of your work history and the skills that you bring to the organization.  Not more than two minutes as they have your resume in front of them.  This is the icebreaker before they start asking questions.
  7. Include equal eye contact. Often interviewees look at only the person who has asked them a question.  This is a mistake.  Each question needs to take into account each stakeholder’s frame of reference and how it relates to the working relationship you will have with their group.  This makes it more conversational instead of rapid question-response to one interviewer at a time.  Make eye contact with the person who asked the question first, then shift eye contact and your body towards the panel member when you talk about their specific area of expertise.  This makes it feel like you are interested in building a relationship with each panel member versus deferring to one person at a time.
  8. Make connections. For each question, think how it can be answered representing the different constituents on the panel.   Reference previous questions that help make your point or allow you to follow-up with a question.
  9. Watch body language. If you see arms crossed or no eye contact, this is a person you need to win over.  Focus some of your questions to them or talk about their point of view.  All the panel members will appreciate your influencing skills when they see this person shed their resistance.
  10. Ask questions. It is the kiss of death to have no questions for the panel.  Clarifying questions relative to “what does success look like to them after you’ve been on board 90 days?”  “What do they view as immediate challenges to address?” Any questions relative to culture you want to uncover are appropriate. One of my favorites to uncover culture is “why do you think people stay with the company?”  The obvious last question is “What is the timeline for selection?”
  11. Express interest in the position. So many times, I have interviewed candidates and wondered whether the person was actually interested in the job.  A short and simple statement works best:  “based upon what I have heard from each of you,  I am very interested in the position and would be thrilled to be working with you.”  Be sure to make this your final comment to the group before you leave.  Then, as you head for the door, address each by name, thank them, and shake hands firmly.
  12. Follow-up. Thank you notes to all the panel members is a must.  Be sure to get their business card or contact information from the person coordinating the panel interview.

Remember, panel members are looking for candidates who stand up under pressure,  are articulate, display an interest in other’s agendas, and will make a difference in their organization. At the end of the day, they will queston:  are you a good fit for them?  Do you have the hard and soft skills needed to solve their problems?  Will you mesh with the culture?  Will you build a lasting relationship with your stakeholders?  Use the panel to your advantage to win multiple votes to get the job.  Finally, ask yourself … is this organization the right fit for you?

To Your Career Success,

Katie Weiser

© Katie Weiser, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katie Weiser with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The # 1 Mistake Job Interviewees Make

The # 1 mistake job interviewees make is not spending enough time on developing answers to possible questions that may be asked.   Let me share a shocking statistic with you: the average person spends less than 60 minutes preparing for an interview. You might be surprised that this is not enough time. In my opinion, 60 minutes is just winging it and it will not get you the job.  So, why don’t job candidates devote the time to get ready for an interview?  I have heard many reasons over the years such as:

  • I don’t know. How could I possibly know every question that will be asked.  There is massive knowledge available on the internet on questions that will be asked and tons of books on the topic.
  • It’s too painful. Yes, work is a four letter word.  Putting the effort in up front will actually boost your confidence and reduce your nervousness.
  • It’s better to be spontaneous than rehearsed.  Guess again, if you don’t have your success stories on the tip of your tongue, you will get tongue-tied.  Spontaneity is for the very experienced and for those who have lots of options.
  • My resume tells it all. Your resume does not reflect the way you carry yourself, the way you speak or reflect your confidence.  In addition, how could a resume possibly capture everything you have done that would match what the employer is looking for?
  • No time. I acknowledge that job seekers are pressed for time, particularly if you have a full time job.  View your job search and getting ready for an interview as a project.  Schedule time on your calendar for these activities.  What gets planned, get’s done!
  • It’s in my head. Many don’t find it easy to write out their answers in advance.  However, there is research that proves the writing-brain connection.   The simple act of writing with pen and paper and then repeating it back to oneself helps with retention.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these objections?  I hope not.  Here are my tips on how to prepare your answers to interview questions and an estimate of how long it will take:

  • Research the questions. There is so much information on the Internet and books that will give you ideas on what questions may be asked.  I encourage you to write out your answers to them.  The simple act of writing out your own answers will help you remember what you want to say.  Knowledge of the prospective questions will give you a head start over the other candidates.
  • Know your strengths, brand and role. Every interviewer asks “what are your strengths?”  A strength is defined as the combination of your knowledge, skills, and talent. Think about several jobs, tasks, projects that you have done in the past with great success. What are the strengths you used at the time? You probably have many more strengths, but keep it limited to what they are looking for.  What are you known for…your brand.  Your brand is a combination of your strengths, passion, attributes and differentiators.  Know the role you are applying for. Matching your strengths to the competencies listed in the job description is critical.
  • Success stories. Interviewers ask:  “can you tell me about a recent accomplishment?”   Prepare your success stories (at least three) of your accomplishments by using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method of storytelling.   By using success stories during your interview, the interviewer will remember your stories before facts, figures, or data. It also gives them an easy way to describe you to others in the organization. The STAR method is great for not only describing your accomplishments, but also for questions like: describe a situation when you had to meet a challenging deadline; tell me about a time when you failed, how do you deal with pressure or stressful situations.
  • Rehearse.  I hear the groans every time I work with a client when I suggest rehearsing answers.  It’s the old story…how do you get to Carnegie Hall…practice, practice, practice.  Practice does make perfect, so please do it with a coach, a friend, or a family member and in private in front of a mirror.  It will settle some of the nervousness, too.

How much time does all this take?  My estimate is preparation can take 8-12 hours.  So, carve out the time on your calendar to write out answers to questions and to rehearse.  Do this over several days because doing it in one sitting can become overwhelming.  As you craft answers to questions, you will find yourself going back and making changes.  All good and confidence will be growing!

Putting in the time to write out your answers to possible questions will help you avoid the # 1 mistake interviewees make.  You will be 99% more prepared than other candidates and it will differentiate you from them.  Let others wing it, so you can shine.

I work with hundreds of clients each year to get them ready for their job interviews.  I have kept a record of the most often asked questions from client feedback, and have narrowed it down to the Top 20 contained in my new book Answers to the Top 20 Interview Questions with downloadable answer templates.  I get great satisfaction when clients come back to tell me that many of the Top 20 questions that we worked on together were asked and they felt prepared and ready to answer them.  Even better news is that they got the job!

To Your Career Success,

Katie Weiser

© Katie Weiser, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katie Weiser with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Interview Conversation Starter ( Question )

dreamstime_s_4990278Interviewers love to start the conversation with “tell me a little bit about yourself.” I count it as the # 1 interview question.  It can be intimidating to talk about yourself immediately!

It is also a great opportunity for you to begin strong and shine. Here’s a few tips on how to respond to this seemingly small talk inquiry.


Be prepared.  Write out your response in advance so it does not seem awkward when you start talking.  Just the simple act of writing out your answer will help you remember what you want to say, and you won’t fumble at the beginning of the interview.

Strengths and skills.  Highlight 4-5 strengths and skills that would be valuable to the company in under two minutes.  This means including the strengths and skills you see in the actual job description.  Strengths like strategic thinking, adaptability, analytical, communication are strengths that companies often are looking for.  Your skills can be specific to the job, e.g. medical coding, excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, specific technology applications.  

Don’t repeat resume.  Remember, they have your resume in front of them.  So, there is no need to think in bullet points through your resume.  There will be a time during the interview when you will be able to go into more detail about your work experience, explain any gaps, discuss military service, etc.

Focus.  Focus on your professional experience and minimize your personal information.  This sets off the interview on a professional level.  The interviewer may ask some personal questions later in the interview, but don’t offer the personal information during this opening conversation.

Ask what else.  After you have done your summary, ask what else you could tell that would be helpful.  Let them take the lead at this point in asking questions and guiding the interview process.  There can be an awkward silence – just keep quiet and smile.  You have volleyed the ball into their court.

Simple, simple, simple. Don’t overdo your response. You can lose your audience if you talk too much.  If you start to see their eyes glaze over, you know you are talking too much.

Practice, practice, practice!  Will you be nervous at your interview?  Of course, you will be.  Butterflies in your stomach are perfectly normal.  In fact, I firmly believe that if you aren’t nervous, it means you don’t really care.  You can practice in front of a mirror to get comfortable with the words.  Even better, find someone who can role play this with you and ask for feedback. Small tweaks as you practice can take your response from good to great.

Remember, most interviewers want you to succeed.  A firm handshake and looking them straight in the eye sets you up for success.  Then, be prepared to answer…”tell me a little about yourself.”  Good luck with your interview.

I offer my clients a 90 minute mock interview and critique session which covers the Top 20 interview questions.  If you are in need of this valuable interview preparation, please contact me at 706.550.4161.

To Your Career Success,

Katie Weiser

© Katie Weiser, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katie Weiser with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.