The Truth About Panel Interviews – And how you can beat them!

I am going to start this post by saying I do not like panel interviews and I am in no way shape or form in favor of them. In fact, if you were to ask most people what their least favorite part of interviewing was, I am willing to bet at least half the people you ask would say panel interviewing. So, why do people hate them so much? What is it about panel interviews that makes people single them out as such a negative experience? Well, a few years back I ended up calling a bunch of candidates who had turned down attractive offers over the last 6 months. I called to ask them about their experiences in order to get some candid feedback from people who had been involved in our process.

The feedback I got was that the interviews where cold, it felt as if they were being grilled, they didn’t do a good enough job of selling the opportunity and that they absolutely hated the panel interviews. People hate them because they are the most nerve-wracking component of an already stressful event. Interviewing is already something a lot of people don’t like doing, but this is the worst part in many people’s eyes.

So you might be asking, well Ben, if this is the case why do people do panel interviews. Preach! I agree, we should do away with them. However, as uncomfortable as they may be, the fact of the matter is that there is value there for the company doing the interviewing. For one, they can get the candidate in front of a lot of people in a limited amount of time. In addition to that they get to see how the person might react to a stressful situation and they get a sense of how this person is able to handle themselves in a complicated group setting. There is no denying, getting an idea of how a candidate handles a stressful situation and being able to see how they communicate in that situation has value.

So far we have established two things. The first is that generally speaking people dislike panel interviews and that they aren’t going anywhere. So, if they aren’t going anywhere, you should probably get better at doing them right? Right! I recently had a panel interview and it went pretty well I think. It didn’t go terribly at least because I got the job and here I am now. So let’s talk about what I did to do well enough that I wasn’t derailed by that panel interview.

How to beat Panel Interviews

So I am going to give you three tips that will help you with panel interviews. I can’t help that they will always work, to some degree it will always depend on the interviewers but these should help. If you can employ these three techniques, most of the panel interviews you will do for the rest of your life will go well. Oh, and for extra help, check out this 5 Things Smart Interviewers Do in the Lobby.

Be confident

The first thing you need to do is not let nerves get to you. I know that is easier said than done. However, if you seem stressed they will notice and you aren’t doing yourself any favors. To be confident, you need to be prepared. So, do your research and go into the interviewer knowing that there is nothing more you could have done to position yourself for success. Once there, sit up straight, smile, look them in the eye and know that they also put their pants on one leg at a time just like you. A lot of it comes down to mindset. Push the fear out of your mind, be confident in what you bring to the table (if it wasn’t a lot, you wouldn’t be there) and let the passion for what you do show!

Don’t worry, be happy! And Passionate!

This one is another attitude adjustment. Your attitude can be infectious. If you smile, are happy and it’s obvious that you love what you do you can completely change the feeling in the room. Don’t think of it as an interview, think of it as a conversation with people who do what you do. However, some of the most frequent feedback I hear from panel interviews is the person lacked energy or passion. Don’t let that be you! I always advocate preparation, passion and positivity in interviewing. This is no different, it might even be more important in this setting.

Allocate your attention evenly

This is the single biggest pitfall people fall victim to while doing panel interviews. I have heard so many times that the interviewer completely ignored a person or directed all their attention to the person with the highest role. That is disrespectful and stupid. People notice when you do that and the person you ignored won’t be the only person who considers it in ill taste. When someone asks you a question, look at them but also make note to look at everyone a little bit. Look them in the eye, answer confidently and make sure you spend an equal amount of time engaging everyone there. I have seen this derail many candidates and it can be the kiss of death for an interview and your potential candidacy. Everyone took time to be there and prepare. Make sure you show them the respect they deserve and connect with them.

Well there you have it! If you can do those three things you will be ok. So much of success is showing up early, respecting people and being positive. The same holds true for interviews. For more prep advice, get my FREE Interview Prep Guide. If you liked this post and I hope you did, please share it and like it on your social networks. Go after what you want today, it’s the best way to live. Have an awesome day and thanks for reading!

3 Great Interview Questions That Will Catch the Interviewer Off Guard

When I have interviewed in the past there have been several times where I was caught off guard. There have been questions I was expecting to have to answer and thusly wasn’t prepared to do so. Having done a ton of interviewing myself, someone has to come up with a really off the wall question to catch me by surprise. Basically that means that the person was intentionally trying to catch me off guard. But…why would you want to intentionally catch someone off guard? The reason is simple, when you catch someone off guard, you are increasingly the likelihood that you are going to get a candid response.

When you interview someone, you can pretty much rest assured they have prepared a ton. They have practiced answering questions they think you are going to ask ahead of time so that their answer comes off more polished than it might otherwise. I personally can’t blame anyone for that, I do it myself. There are so many resources available today to help someone prepare for phone interviews as well as in person interviews. For example, this site is a solid resource to learn how to interview. There are eBooks out there to help you prepare like My eBook and my FREE Interview Prep Guide. So to try and get some authentic, not prepackaged answer, sometimes interviews ask unique questions that will catch you off guard. They want to see you think on your feet and get a gauge on how you handle pressure.

However, this goes both ways, as the interviewee you also have the ability to catch the interviewer off guard. Why would you do that you ask? Well you could do it for some of the same reasons. Maybe you want to get an honest answer from them. Personally when I am asked a question, as the interviewer, that really makes me think I appreciate it. It’s not that often that its flipped around and all of a sudden I am the one trying to figure out the best way to response. So in some ways I think it is the sign of a good interviewer. It’s also a good way to perhaps shift the balance of power just a bit. At the very least, you can gather a little more information and it won’t hurt your chances of getting the job. So with that being said let’s take a look at 3 great interview questions that will catch the interviewer off guard.

 

What will be the most challenging aspect of this job for the person who ultimately ends up filling it?

What a great question. Its good because as recruiters you are so used to selling a role. However, you don’t spend a lot of time talking about why the role will at times be challenging. Quite frankly, I don’t care what your job is, there are aspects of it that are less pleasant than others and this gives you a glimpse at what some of those are.

 

What is your biggest reason for staying at this company?

This is one of my personal favorites to ask someone interviewing me. In fact, the last several interviews I have taken I have asked this question. I ask this question for a few reasons. The first being I want to hear the enthusiasm in their voice. If they are unconvincing with their answer that might tell you everything you need to know about securing employment there. Are they having a hard time coming up with a reason to stay? Well that’s not good. Do they seem like they are describing why they continue with the same dentist? “Well it’s close to my house, I have been here for a long time, it’s close to my gym…” While I find it extremely convenient to have my work situated close to the place I go and throw weights around, that isn’t what I want to hear here. I want enthusiasm, passion, I want solid reasons that motivate me to take an offer if presented with one. From what they say, to the way they say it, every bit of information you get from this question is valuable.

 

Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to do the job?

Game changer…. Read that question again. In my My eBook I have this question as a must ask in the closing section. I had an awesome boss once who told me to prep all my candidates to ask this question at the end of their interviews. Why? For two simple reasons. If they say something like “No, not at all, you are a total fit for this role” you can respond by saying “Great, in that case I want you to know that I am very interested in this role and I look forward to hearing from you further”. However, if the response isn’t as positive and they say something like “well, everyone really liked you but there are concerns about your job stability” than that’s awesome! I mean, it’s not awesome that they have concerns but it’s awesome you get a chance to address them. You almost walked out and you would have never gotten the chance to address their concerns. If they say that then use the next moment to try and answer their concerns. Don’t be pushy but you can confidently explain why their concern shouldn’t disqualify you from coming and working here.

 

Well there you have it, those are 3 great interview questions that will catch the interviewer off guard. Not only that but there will be value in the answers for you as well. Can you think of any other great questions to ask? If so comment below, I always love seeing the great ones you guys come up with. If you liked this post, as always please share it with your networks! Have an awesome day!

3 Razor Thin Lines You Must Walk to Be a Great Candidate

In some recent posts I have had discussions about the difference between good and great. I have never met someone who wants to be below average however I think there are many people who are satisfied with being good. With the best roles being sought after competitively you have to ask yourself a question, is good going to get it done? Actually, sometimes the answer is yes. If lack of talented candidates in your field has created a significant scarcity then yes, being just good might be more than good enough. For example, there are only 4 universities in the United States that graduate degreed welding engineers. I have actually filled a few welding engineering roles I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are extremely hard to find.

If you want to hire a recruiter perhaps you can look at your three or four finalists and determine who would be the best culture fit. If you are looking for a welding engineer the criteria might look a lot different. “Can she weld? Yes? Hire her!” I’m kidding…a little… However most of us don’t have welding engineering degrees and tend to work in fields that don’t experience that perpetual scarcity that gives welding engineers the type of career control all of us might envy if you take the time to think about it. Most of us, if we want that next role with all the perks and career advancement are going to have to come off great in the interview. Like many things worth doing that is easier said than done.

I have one singular goal for this post. I am going to look at three different things that will help you distinguish yourself as top 25% talent. We are going to operate under the assumption that you are qualified for the role, have done your research and that generally speaking you make sense as a hire for the role you are interviewing for. If all that is true and you can pull of the three things below then you will go a long way towards being considered great. Before you get started, of you haven’t downloaded my FREE Interview Prep Guide what are you waiting for? Its free, click that link and get it!

 

Being perceived as confident, not cocky

I am going to start here just in case you only have time to read one of these. When I have an amazing candidate, who fits all the criteria amazingly and I hear that my client is going to pass, this is often the reason. For a lot of people this can be hard. You are amazing at your job, you have the track record, the attitude and you know you are just what they need. You know that you can do that job today and hey have problems you have fixed in the past and you feel you can fix it here. When all those components are there it can be hard to taper back the enthusiasm about what you bring to the table. But, if you really want to be a great candidate, you have to do it. Don’t get me wrong, feel free to brag about yourself a little bit. People like confidence and they buy passion. But also show some humility and the desire to continuing to develop because let’s face it, you don’t know everything. You can be a great candidate but still have areas you want to develop in, great candidates know this.

 

Come off interested but not desperate

Let’s pretend for a minute that being desperate wont impact your leverage to negotiate if an offer comes. I mean, it totally does, but momentarily let’s just look at how it impacts how you are perceived as a candidate. If you are totally desperate and everything about you screams “I NEED THIS JOB, I MUST GET THIS JOB” how do you think it makes you look? What questions do you think that puts into your interviewer’s head? The fact of the matter is at the end of the day you want every person to who interviews you thinking “we would be lucky to land this candidate”. You want employers thinking that not only would you be a great hire but that it is an opportunity with a limited window. It’s basic psychology that people want what they think they can’t have. Bottom line is that it’s not good for you to come across as desperate. Now, by no means am I advocating playing hard to get. Don’t do that. These are adults and if you play games they will get tired of them. However great candidates can walk this line. They can express interest in what the opportunity could mean for their career but they take a measured, pragmatic approach. That is what the best candidates do and what I would advise you to do.

 

Motivated to leave your current role but not bashing

This is another one that impacts a ton of candidates. However, this one doesn’t just hurt potential great candidates, its literally one that everyone will have to find balance when discussing. A cardinal sin when interviewing is bashing your former employee. I don’t care if you worked at Enron right before the financial crisis, bashing your former employer will never ever be received well. You could be telling the 100% truth, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes things aren’t black and white, there are many shades of gray. This is not one of those times. If you bash your old employers, you are hurting your chances of getting the job. I have never been a meeting following a group of interviews and heard someone say, “You know what really impressed me? I love the way Ben just eviscerated the work habits of his former boss. Epic!” That doesn’t happen. It makes you come off as difficult and people will consequently want to avoid working with you. On the other end, if you work for the greatest employer in the world, why in the hell are you looking? You have to find a balance here. While your current employer is great and you have learned a ton, they have some basic limitations that stand in the way of the lofty goals you have set for yourself in regards to personal and professional development. Find a good way to say that. Find something that is true to you, doesn’t make you look desperate and makes you feel grateful for your time there while still indicating your desire to move for what you would consider the perfect opportunity. That my friends, is the key.

Was that helpful? I hope so. Walking these 3 razor thin lines you must walk to be a perfect candidate may not be easy to accomplish but if you can, you will have gone a long way towards strengthening your candidacy. Any other ones I missed? Feel free to comment below and as I always, please share with your networks on any social media platform you use, I appreciate it. Oh and one last thing, if you have check out my Work with Ben section, give it a look. After some feedback from readers I have created a way for candidates who need assistance to work with me as well as a way for organizations who want to find the best passive talent to engage my company and I. Even if you just want to have a conversation about it check it out. My company saves our clients over 50% on traditional agency recruiters and every single candidate we supply is 100% passive, we never post jobs….period…even if I wanted to do I wouldn’t be able to. Thanks again and have an awesome day!

1 Question You Need to Ask Every Candidate: My Take On a Lou Adler Tip

Do you guys see that above pic? Yes, that is a real picture and that is a recruiting legend….and Lou Adler. Just kidding that is a picture of me and recruiting legend Lou Adler. I had a full day of training with Lou and then saw him speak at a Titus Talent event thrown in downtown Milwaukee. Over the next few weeks or so I plan on sharing some of the information I learned from Lou with all of you. The following post is for anyone who will at some point in the future need to sell a candidate to a hiring manager. If you don’t feel you ever need to do that, feel free to read on anyway because it’s a good skill to have and you never know when you might benefit from having acquired this skill.

Part 1

Now while this question is directed to the candidate, to properly execute it, it actually starts way before the interview. It starts with your conversation with the hiring manager. In order to do this correctly you need to find the pain point. What is this hiring manager hoping this person will come in to do. There are several ways to get this information. Sometimes it will be blatantly obvious. The hiring manager will state over and over again that they are staying late, working long hours to accomplish a task this person is typically responsible for. If that’s the case, part one has been made easy for you. If not there are questions you can ask to find it out but for this to work, you absolutely must find it out. One of the things you can ask your hiring manager (or client if you are an agency recruiter) is “What project or deliverable will this person have right out of the gate, the first 90 days on the job?”

Typically, if you ask this question the hiring manager will reveal the pain point they are dealing with. So you ask the question and in return they say “well yes, this person is going to involved in an inter-plant relocation. That is going to be a big, high impact project that they will be expected to co tribute to right away.” If they say that well guess what, they have just made your job a lot easier. Ok, so you have that crucial piece of information, let’s move onto part two.

Quick break! Last week I finally published my FREE Interview Prep Guide, go check it out now… or after you are done with the post!

Part 2

Part two is you take that deliverable and you turn that into a question you will ask the candidate. In this specific case you would ask the candidate “Have you ever been a part of inter-plant relocation?” Now an inter-plant relocation is when you move the insides of a facility around in order to create efficiencies. For example, in a manufacturing facility, if there is an area of manufacturing and an area of assembly that are in different areas and you could eliminate waste by moving them closer together, then you might want to move them closer together. Thank you for bearing with me during that explanation, I have a business degree, not an industrial engineering degree. So you ask that question and that candidate says yes. You then follow that up with a bunch of follow yup questions. “What was your contribution to that project?” “You said you managed people on this project, how many people were under your direct management?” “What was the budget for this move?” “Who’s idea was this move?” “What efficiencies were created by implementing this change?”

Basically, you ask as many questions as you need to until you have as full of an understanding as you are capable of having. Now that you have this information, what can you use it for? The answer is simple, you use it to sell the candidate to the hiring manager. I had a boss who once told me that recruiting is all about just creating a conversation between two people. You make those conversations happen and good things will happen. Many times I have submitted a candidate I felt great about just to have the hiring manager look at their resume and say something like “Yea, I am not sure about this candidate, I don’t see enough ABC”. If you are able to arm yourself with the information you can get from asking these questions than you have positioned yourself to be able to sell your candidate on a level you haven’t been able to do before. Not only that but you have positioned yourself to be more consultative. You have unearthed the core reason for the need and then provided candidates who have previous examples of filling these gaps in talent and presented them to your hiring manager. If the manager waffles about having that initial phone screen, as long as the example they provide is impactful and similar to what they will need to do in this new role, then you have armed yourself with the ammunition that in most cases should be more than enough.

So what did you think? Was that helpful? Do you think you will be able to use it? Do you have any other tips that you have used in the past to sell candidates? If so, I would love to hear it below. Also if you liked this post, please share it with your social media networks. Thanks again for reading and have a great day!