The Compliance division discuss the challenges of panel interviews and what you can do to prepare
If you were to ask a Compliance Officer or Manager, “How often have you faced a panel interview?” the answer would likely be frequently. They are an important part of the recruitment process, exposing you to the wider elements of the business and the further your career progresses, the more likely you are to encounter them.
However, despite the fact that they aren’t unusual, facing a number of people who are drilling you on your knowledge and strengths can be intimidating for anyone. As they are a different format than standard interviews they do require more thought and preparation.
Panel interview formats
Panel interviews consist of upwards of three interviewers who will represent different key areas of the business. Commonly they will be from HR, a Senior Compliance Officer or Compliance Manager and either a Company Director, or the Head of the Legal or Risk functions.
The actual format of the panel will vary, subject to the organisation. There are a couple of standard approaches; it may be led by a chair who will ask most of the questions with other members perhaps asking one or two questions at the end. Alternatively, each section of the interview is conducted by a different panel member asking questions that are relevant to their business area. The least organised and by far the most intimidating is the free for all, with all members of the panel jumping in and little structure.
Panel interview preparation
The key to a successful panel interview is preparation. Undeniably any interview requires preparation but with panels it can really make the difference. A lot of it comes down to practicing technique in effectively communicating with upwards of three interviewers at once.
To begin with, it is essential that you know who the interviewers are and their position within the company and how this relates to the role you are applying for. Additional research into their background using LinkedIn and Google will give you further insights and help you in identifying commonalities and building a rapport.
Keep your interviewers engaged
This is perhaps the most challenging element of the panel interview format. When answering questions and citing examples, you need to try and engage the entire panel. Losing the attention of one or two members can be very disheartening.
As a guide, begin your answer by making eye contact with the questioner, and then as you continue, move across the panel. Body language is also important here, and keeping it open and engaged, with shoulders back and arms uncrossed will aid you in engaging their interest. Try to keep your answer relevant to your experiences to ensure that your knowledge and skills are related to the interests of those present and the question asked.
This technique will help you to engage different members of the panel whilst demonstrating skills and past experience. Whilst answering the question however, one of the quickest ways to lose your audience’s interest is to waffle and not answer the actual question.
To keep you on track, we advise using the simple SOAR technique.
‘S’ - Scenario
Choose a scenario that most appropriately fits the question. It could be an enquiry about your experience in monitoring and implementing FSA regulatory changes, or developing and co-ordinating Compliance monitoring programmes.
‘O’ – Ownership
Ensure that it is clear you took ownership of the scenario.
‘A’ – Action
What action did you take to resolve the situation and bring about a satisfactory conclusion?
‘R’ – Result
How did the outcome have an effect on the company or department?
This technique will help you to formulate an answer that is succinct, lasting about two minutes, contextualised and most importantly, actually answers the question!
Of course, part of the assessment protocol is how you cope in a pressurised environment. In a panel this pressure, created through the dynamic of different personalities invokes a very challenging environment for the interviewee.
They are designed to test you and establish that you are the correct person for the job; even though it the experience can be a stressful one.
The key is to remain calm and ensure that you address each interviewer in turn. Try not to leave anyone out in terms of eye contact and body language and be confident. After all, it is most likely that they were that side of the table once too.