How to handle a panel interview for marketing jobs

Interview iStock_000019674221Small 3While a panel interview may feel like an aggressive military interrogation, its worth remembering that the intention of the assembled inquisitors is not to intimidate, but simply to get to know you.

And just as in any job interview situation, this is your chance to show intelligence, confidence, interest and ability, and ultimately secure your perfect marketing job. So be focused and controlled, and you’ll get results.

Often panels are put together for high level marketing candidates, so that several relevant people within the organization can take part at once – the HR director, the sales director, the finance director and the head of marketing, for example. They will all be looking for certain qualities – i.e. will you fit the company culture, have you got relevant experience, can you handle a budget, will you do your best to promote the company through your work? Some recruitment experts say it’s a good idea to view the panel interview as several meetings handily combined into one time-efficient get together. You’re getting it all over with at once, in other words.

The people who stand out in these panel situations are those who relax and interact. They have clearly used their intelligence to do some research, and have genuine questions for the interviewers showing a rounded understanding of what’s needed. Their personality will come through in the way they cope with a challenging situation.

Here are five useful tips for impressing the interview panel:

Know who’s who
You will probably have been told who will be in the panel interview, so make sure you understand what each person does within the company, and have at least one question lined up for each of them. If you can remember each person’s name, it will look impressive to refer to them by name during the interview – just don’t get it wrong!

Know their tactics too. If a recruitment consultant has set up the interview for you, they may have an idea of the format the interview will take. It will be helpful to know whether to expect a traditional set of interview questions, or whether they throw in quirky questions.

Rehearse your answers
There’s no denying these interviews can be stressful, so interview practice and preparation can pay off, and put you at ease on the day. You can use video to record yourself answering mock questions, or ask a couple of friends to listen to your interview rehearsal. When you rehearse your answers and your physical presentation beforehand, you will feel more confident no matter how many people you have to face.

Tell the right stories
There is likely to be an element of behavioural interviewing, so you may be asked to speak about instances when you demonstrated particular behaviors or skills needed for the desired job. The interviewers are basing their questions on the assumption that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior – so make sure you have good examples of how you did things in the past that will fit their future strategy and working culture. Behaviours likely to be addressed include leadership, managing a budget, overcoming a problem with an angry client, dealing with an underperforming colleague, exceeding a sales target.

Be ready with your personal pitch
Having an ‘elevator pitch’ about yourself well prepared can be a good idea. If the panel kicks off with ‘Tell us about yourself’ or ‘give us a brief outline of why you’re here’, you want to have a succinct, snappy summary of who you are and what your career goals are. Don’t go into too much detail, but certainly cover your overall mission, your top-level skills and interests – i.e. your best selling points.

Sell your self with calmness
To stand out from the other job seekers gunning for this marketing or PR role, it’s important to maintain a calm, fluent dialogue with the panel. The interviewers are looking for someone who is competent and grounded, and the panel interview is the ultimate test for this. If you pull it off, the interviewers will remember those qualities. Smile, and even laugh if the opportunity arises. Try and include all members of the panel, so make eye contact with the person who has asked the question when answering, but also look around at others now and then too. Make sure your posture is good, and round off with clear thank yous to all at the end.

Being prepared will give you a real confidence boost. Remember that no matter how uncomfortable the interview situation may feel, you’re there as a professional to learn just as much about them, as they are eager to learn about you.

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