How to Nail the Interview: Panel Interviews / Stakeholder Interviews (7 & 8 of 9)

November 25, 2013

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In the series, we discuss different types of interviews to help prepare you as a candidate. So, why have you ended up in this format of interview? What are some common pitfalls to avoid? And what are some potential advantages to this interview format that you can exploit? Read on to find out!

Today, we tackle panel two types of interviews the Panel Interview and Stakeholder interviews (which of course can also take on a panel format).

What is it? Panel and Stakeholder interviews are similar in that they both deal with people you’ll be working with indirectly in the role you’re interviewing for.

Panel Interviews usually occur later in the process – the company is usually interested in you. Likely you have been shortlisted by now. It’s likely a 3rd or final interview and  usually done for more senior or strategic internal interfacing positions. A panel interview is an interview where you’ll meet with a cross section of stakeholders from across the organization: hiring managers, internal clients, sometimes HR, etc. They typically follow the same format as a normal interview, except there are more people involved.

The particular difficulty of a panel interview is that, because there are more individuals you’re interviewing with, there are more moving parts. Panel interviews can be intimidating, but it’s important to remember that the panel is not a monolithic entity that’s judging you as a whole. It’s definitely not an inquisition – do not be intimidated – it’s just a different style of interviewing.  It’s usually a time saver for a diverse set of stakeholders with busy schedules.

Each individual member of a panel will have a particular set of needs and their own particular agenda going into the interview. Individual stakeholders’ agendas will be skewed to their own needs instead of the needs of the company. Each individual is asking in their heads, “how’s this person going to help me?” It’s important to try to speak to those individual needs to get the buy-in of each interviewer if you can.

For example: Stakeholders are going to want to see how you’re going to make a difference to their specific business function. Supervisors, Managers, and Directors are going to want to see you talk about achievements, metrics, and skills you have that are transferable. The Human Resources person at the table is going to be assessing soft skills. They’ll apply behavioural techniques and ask you to respond to different scenarios.

Pitfalls:

The potential pitfall of a panel interview is that it’s hard to build rapport. We’ve discussed how important rapport is for interviews in previous installments of this series, and it’s harder to build rapport with several people at once. However, it can be done!

When you’re addressing one person’s question, you need to be aware of your body language
with the other people at the table. Make sure you don’t look too closed off. Try to make a connection with each panelist and make them feel individually important. Don’t just focus on the person you connect with most easily and forget about everything else. Focus on reading the panel. It can be easy to fall into just talking to one person, often the one asking the questions. Make sure you’re talking to the group, and try to engage all of them. This is of course easier said than done. Just keep in mind that it’s a group of individuals with different needs and priorities, and that should help put you in the right mindset.

One other tip is that the person who’s the quietest is the one you need to be most weary about. So try if you can to draw that person in by eye contact and speaking to her/him even though you are answering someone else’s question.

Really, even though it’s intimidating to interview with multiple people, keep in mind that if you’ve made it to this stage, they’re hoping for your success as much as you are. This interview should have the same overall effect as a one-on-one interview.  It’s just a more detailed process.

Stakeholder Interview:

Especially in strategic sourcing/procurement, stakeholders are considered the clients so you have to get their approval and buy-in as a great choice to hire. As part of the process they’ll get brought in and they carry a lot of weight because they’re the internal customer to Procurement.  Stakeholders will be members of the departments for which you’ll be trying to negotiate cost savings – so if your Procurement category is services, you’ll likely be dealing with HR as a stakeholder. If it’s facilities, you’ll likely be dealing with facilities, etc. If it is IT Procurement you might possibly meet with the CIO in a panel interview.

Great communication and interpersonal skills are important. Listening skills are important. Questioning skills are important. This is one of the most important interviews because if an internal client is brought in it’s usually because there’s concern about there being potential interfacing issues.

They might be bringing you in for an interview with a stakeholder to see if you’re going to mesh with the group or be strong enough to handle their needs. Show them that you understand their concerns and worries and priorities and want to work with them, not against them. They’ll tell you what stakeholder you’re going to interview, so do some extra preparation to appear comfortable with that stakeholder. For example, if it’s IT, give an example of what initiatives you’ve enacted with IT stakeholders in the past. This helps to come across as specific.

Thank you to Sam White at Argentus for this contribution.

Over and Out

Bronwen

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