Summer can be the time of year when a lot of individuals ramp up their job search. Many times, the recruitment process might include a panel interview at some stage, and the following helpful tips will set you up for success.

  • Always arrive 10-15 minutes early. If you are early, you may be invited to start earlier. If you are late, it will make for an awkward introduction. It’s also a good idea to research the location of the interview in advance to ensure you know where to park and exactly how to get there – a site visit in advance may be necessary to ensure complete confidence in your arrival time. Always have a phone number of a panel member to call or text in case you are involved in a traffic accident.
  • You must do some research on the organization and role before your interview. Even if you just review the corporate web site, but a few hours of research will help you feel more prepared and confident.
  • Avoid using your mobile device for phone conversations while waiting in the open lobby prior to the start of the interview. If you are at the employer’s location, the receptionist will be watching you and will listen to every word, and may also provide their opinion on you as a candidate to the panel members.
  • Be professional with the receptionist upon arrival. See #2 above.
  • Always dress well – shine your shoes and wear business attire. If the company has a business casual dress code, you need to be aware of this before the meeting and dress accordingly. But even casual attire will be judged. A dark suit and striped tie is best. Women should also wear a dark suit and avoid excessive makeup and jewelry.
  • Never wear perfume, after shave, or cologne.
  • Carry a booklet into the interview for note taking. Bring a copy of your resume and a pen. Having typed notes as reminders might be of value.
  • Ask for the names and titles of the panel members before the interview and Google them. Take a paper with their names on it to refer to when you are asked questions from the panel members.
  • Give succinct answers. Your interview will be 30-60 minutes. Assume that you have-12 questions and 2-4 minutes to answer each one. The longer you talk, usually the worse it will get. The panel members may say nothing while you talk, but after a few minutes, may be completely lost or not paying attention to what you are saying.
  • Do not write the question you are asked on a pad of paper before answering. It’s OK to jot down notes occasionally, but if you let a long pause ensue while you write down the question, you will be disrespecting the panel’s time. The interview will start to drag, the panel will become impatient, and they may assume that you cannot remember the question.
  • Your tensest moment might be the initial minute or two. Be prepared with an opening “ice-breaker”, on the day’s news or weather, or another topic of general interest. If you have done your homework on the organization, it will impress the panel if you are aware of some news topic, announcement, trend, or issue affecting their business.
  • Smile a lot.
  • Be well rested. You will be more relaxed.
  • Do not talk about your personal life. You may mention a partner or children, but be careful getting into details about relationships, name dropping, business or financial affairs, or local gossip. Keep the conversation professional and related to the job and the business.
  • Be politically correct. Avoid making comments that could be taken out of context in a negative way by anyone, such as remarks about race, sex, religion, gender, politics or similar topics.
  • Do not interrupt a panel member under any circumstances. They are in charge of the interview and you are their guest.
  • If you are asked a multi-part question, feel free to ask for the question to be repeated.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, either say you don’t know, or ask to come back to it.
  • At the end of the interview, when asked if you have a question, ask only two questions that you have thought of in advance. Do not ask a question that may put the panel on the spot. Do not assume that you have unlimited time – the panel may want to conclude the interview. A good question to ask is simply “What is the next step in the process?” Do not ask “What do you think of me as a candidate?”
  • After the interview, shake hands with each panel member, but only if there are only three or four people. If there are 10-15, it will take too long, and it will be an awkward exit.


Patrick Rowan is a Partner, Executive Search, with Feldman Daxon Partners in Toronto.

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