Ensure you stay ahead of the game
Despite the economy showing green shoots, and the double dip recession seemingly behind us, there’s no denying that the jobs market remains tough. And with multiple candidates vying for positions, candidates need to ensure they stay ahead of the game and prepare for all types of job interviews. Gone are the days when a one-to-one interview was the norm. Today potential employees face far more rigorous interviews to ensure employers get the right fit.
A business will use panel interviews for a number of reasons and they will likely involve several representatives from the company. For example, a more objective decision can perhaps be made, an organisation might want to save time and avoid having to go through the process two or three times with different people, or they want to see how a potential new recruit reacts under pressure.
As with any interview ensure you prepare well in advance. Any reputable recruitment consultancy will brief you with the key facts in good time – how many people will be on the panel, for instance – and you should take this opportunity to ask them for any other advice you might want. However, doing your own research is a must. Use Linkedin, the company website, other social media platforms and press articles they may have been featured in. This will not only equip with you with key information on what they do and their background, but also give the chance to prepare meaningful questions that are relevant to each panel member.
When it comes to the interview itself, ensure you address each member of the panel at the beginning and try to balance your attention equally to all members – not just those that pose the most questions. After all the outcome of the interview will be determined by everyone so ensure you have engaged with each party throughout.
Increasingly, organisations are turning to competency based interviews to learn as much as they can about a prospective employee. Generally, this will assess behaviour in a previous position or situation, and looks at how that can contribute to performance in the role being recruited for.
Prior to your interview, and as well as carrying out the relevant research mentioned above, it's well worth revisiting the job description to ascertain what competencies you might be assessed against. These might include problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, and communications skills, for example. Once you have identified them ensure you have examples from previous roles or situations where you have displayed these competencies. A useful way to help prepare is the STAR technique:
- Situation – describe the situation
- Task – describe the task required to cope with the situation
- Action – what was the action taken?
- Result – what was the outcome?
While competency based interviews aren't common within the legal sector which we operate in, informal interviews very much are. They are not uncommon in several other industries, so it is best to be prepared for these too. Some companies feel it is beneficial for a potential employee to meet other staff members in a more relaxed, informal setting. Candidates may feel more relaxed too and therefore ask questions that they might not do in a formal interview setting. The hiring company will get to see whether the individual is going to gel with other team members.
If you get invited to an informal interview – drinks after work, for example – it is vital to keep in the back of your mind that it is a meeting which will determine your next career step. Do the same research you would normally and above all remain professional. Don’t be tempted to ‘have a few too many drinks to calm your nerves’ – this will not position you as a professional who is serious about the role.
No matter how daunting the thought of an interview is, by doing your homework and preparing to the best of your ability, you will be well on your way to success. It’s important to remember that no matter how a question is phrased and by who, each and every one boils down to one thing: ‘how would this individual fit into the company and will they do the job better than other candidates?' Good luck.