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Preparing for an Online Panel Interview

Preparing for an Online Panel Interview

by Richard Lloyd

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An online panel interview is challenging and more common during these times due to social distancing. With a panel of two interviewers or more from varied professional backgrounds, some will be from the relevant department to the role for which you’re interviewing, and others could include stakeholders from across the business (for instance, senior management, HR, etc.).

If you’ve been asked to attend an online panel interview for a new Accounting job you’ve applied for, chances are the company in question wants to assess you on a variety of measures. Each interviewer is going to have a different opinion of you and ask different questions – some very specific to Accounting, some more broadly related to the company as a whole and you as a person.

But does this mean you should feel more pressure? No! In fact, preparing for a panel interview is very similar to preparing for a regular interview, with a few extra things to consider. So, how do you ace your panel interview?

1. Prepare as You Would for a Normal Interview

Everything you’d typically do before interviewing for an Accounting job is relevant in this instance and it shouldn't matter whether it is face-to-face or online.

Long before your scheduled appointment, make sure you’ve done all of the following:

  1. Research the company: You must understand what the company does, so you can clearly answer how you will fit into their workplace.
  2. Memorise the job listing: If you applied via a job listing, chances are this will come back up in the interview. Memorise what the job will involve and the key skills required, so you can explain what you bring to the table as a candidate.
  3. Prep for common questions: Every interview is different – especially panel interviews – but common questions are common for a reason. Prepare detailed, clear answers to the most common job interview questions.

2. Find Out Who is Joining the Panel

Standing out in an online panel interview will be made a lot easier by knowing who is joining you on the day. Politely ask your contact person for the names and job titles of everyone who will be on the panel including their geographical location. This way, you can look them up on LinkedIn (or any other bio that they have) to better understand who they are, what they do, and what their skills are.

What should I do with this knowledge?

Firstly, it will prepare you to answer questions from different panellists. For example, if you’re talking not just to a recruiter but also the company’s Finance Manager – who has been in the industry for decades – you can likely expect more technical questions from this person, specific to the Accounting role.

Secondly, knowing the names and backgrounds of each panellist will help you formulate your own questions for each of them.

3. Prepare a List of Questions for Each Panellist

In every interview, panel or otherwise, you should walk in with a list of pre-prepared questions. This shows a preparation and an eagerness for the role – both positive traits from a recruiter’s and an employer’s perspective.

The fact that you’re going into a panel interview for your role is actually a massive benefit – you will be able to ask much more detailed, specific questions because there is a broader range of people available to you.

Common Questions to Ask

  1. What are the most challenging responsibilities of the role?
  2. What are your expectations for the role during the first 30, 60 and 365 days?
  3. What is the company culture like?
  4. Where is the company headed in the next 3-5 years?
  5. What is the typical career path for this kind of role at this company?

4. Build a Rapport with Each Panellist

Building rapport with the interviewers can be even more difficult when conducting panel interviews online as there is the risk of everyone talking over each other due to time delays, poor internet connectivity etc. Just because this is a panel of people instead of a single interviewer doesn’t mean rapport is any less important.

During your interview, try to talk to everyone, even if they haven’t been asking as many questions. Specifically, remember to:

  1. Acknowledge each of the panellists.
  2. Look at the camera, versus looking around which could denote a lack of interest.
  3. Use the panellist's name when answering the question, as this can build familiarity.

5. Prepare for Fast, Difficult Questions

Each panellist in your interview will have their own objective, and so may have a unique set of questions to ask. This can often lead to a very fast-paced interview as everyone needs to be satisfied that you are the right person for the job. Listen carefully to what is being asked of you so you can be succinct in your answer. Online panel interviews are challenging so being articulate in your response will help to prove your listening and verbal communication skills.

It’s up to you to navigate this conversation as politely and respectfully as possible. For instance, if someone asks you a question before you’ve fully answered the one prior, consider whether the rest of your answer was vital to the role or not – if not, move on. If so, politely mention that you will respond in a moment, but that there is one final thought you’d like to share first.

In Summary

Online panel interviews are challenging. Not only are there a broad range of personalities at the table, asking different questions, you are also reliant on a different etiquette and most importantly reliable internet connectivity for it to be successful.

It’s up to you to research each panellist in advance and to prepare to respond clearly no matter what questions are coming your way. This will involve careful study of the company, the role and the panellists, together with how your background can be positive to the position you are interviewing for.

For more help with your search for an Accounting job, or to discuss your career, get in touch with the team at Richard Lloyd today.