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Panel interviews can intimidate the unprepared candidate and be the interview of choice for the prepared candidate. Individuals must have high attention to details in both verbal and nonverbal communications during the panel interview process. Think of the panel interview as an opportunity to gain insight on the company culture and team dynamics. This is the time to assess the company culture in determining whether you will accept an offer from the organization.
I have participated in several panel interviews that required extensive preparation prior to the interview. In the past several years, companies have created leadership and management team bios on their corporate websites. I strongly suggest you spend a couple hours reviewing a night or two before the interview. It is a good idea to practice answering questions sitting at a table and rehearsing the ones you will be asking the panel. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Unveiling the Alphas and Omegas
The panel interview normally takes place in a board room setting. Each individual takes a seat and the interview begins. This is the time for you to really listen and observe individuals closely.
The Verbal and Nonverbal Cues of the Alphas:
- Individual sitting directly across the table from you.
- Individuals sitting straight up in their chairs.
- One particular individual that is completely disengaged, either leaning back in chair or sitting at corner of table with one arm on table, maybe a pen in hand, or, simply watching team members and you with a focused eye.
- Individuals asking majority of the questions.
- Individuals that are more serious than others, but laugh when appropriate.
- Individuals that correct team members in the questioning of candidates and when the candidate is questioning the interviewees.
These are the Alphas that make the final decisions of who will be selected as the candidate of choice. Be respectfully assertive with direct eye contact when the Alpha asks you a question/s. Do not stumble in your answer and smile briefly, no exaggeration. You must appear as an expert in your field and be able to provide needed information in a sequential format. Think of these individuals as the train conductors. How would you approach a conductor to let them know that part of the engine will need repairing at the next train station? It is an emergency situation that needs the engineer to provide mechanical logistics not emotional drama.
The Verbal and Non-verbal Cues of the Omegas:
- Individuals slumped down in their chairs.
- Individuals leaning forward with hands/elbows on knees.
- Individuals sitting up in chair and paying close attention to one particular team member rather than looking at you.
- Individuals not asking many questions, but doing allot of listening.
- Individuals that follow up with a question after the main question is asked.
- Individuals that have the “disgust” look on their faces.
- Individuals that are extremely outgoing and laughing allot.
The Omegas will do little talking during the interview process and allot of talking afterwards. They influence the alphas significantly with making a final decision. Don’t be fooled by them. Whatever you do, don’t be overly assertive with these individuals. Be courteous and smile, this is the time you will want to engage in a very friendly banter. Make certain you are sharing eye contact with the other team members and returning back to the omega that asked the question while answering. This sends a nonverbal message to the alphas that you like one of their omegas. If they see you engaging and respecting the omegas, you will receive multiple positive points.
Have you ever watched one of the PBS wolf pack programs that show them interacting with one another? The Omegas are always brushing their heads underneath the Alphas chin or lying down on their bellies and crawling towards the Alpha asking for forgiveness for a transgression. There will be a point in the interview process that you have the opportunity to act like an Omega. It might be when the Alpha ask you a specific tough question or when the Omega throws a curve ball question trying to through you off a little bit to see if you are human. Don’t miss this opportunity to look down for a moment, gather your thoughts, look back up at the one that asked you the question, and begin answering the question. It is the perfect nonverbal move to ensure a couple more positive points from the pack, as you are sending a humbling message to each one.
Close with a Handshake
The closing of the interview will signal everyone to stand up and walk towards the door. You will shake hands with several of the Omegas thanking them for the opportunity to interview. This is your last chance to crawl on your belly to the pack leader/s with a firm handshake thanking them for the opportunity to interview. You must shake hands with the entire pack. This shows respect for each one and is another nonverbal method of asking for the job.
The panel will have their fangs ready to eliminate the unprepared candidate. This is the packs opportunity to select the next Omega that will be part of their coming adventures. In order to survive, you must be able and ready to unveil the Alphas and Omegas. Then, and only then, will you enter the inner circle and become one of them.