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5 ways to succeed in a panel interview

If you're more used to one-to-ones, a panel format job interview might feel as daunting as doing an elevator pitch on Dragons' Den. However, with some careful preparation you can be ready for the challenge.

In the past, the panel interview format was mainly used in the charities sector and academia. However, it's now relatively common in healthcare recruitment, particularly at more senior levels. With a greater focus on building multi-disciplinary teams comprising doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, there may be several senior managers or team leaders who feel they need to sit in on your interview.

Here are our top five tips for succeeding at panel interviews. They're not role-specific, so you should find them useful whether you're applying for a job as a senior nurse, a head of radiography or a physiotherapy service manager.

1. Find out who is on the panel

Don't be afraid to ask. Once you know their names, with some internet research you should be able to find out more about the members of the panel - job roles, areas of expertise etc. Make sure you're ready to ask at least one or two questions that are relevant to each person.

2. Prepare some relevant examples

In previous blogs we've talked about giving specific examples when you answer questions that are focused on your skills and experience. In a panel interview you need to be ready with a range of examples that are relevant to different members of the panel. For example, if you're a nurse and there's a senior occupational therapist on the panel, you might refer to a success story that shows your experience in dealing with elderly patients who have mobility issues.

3. Engage with everyone

It's easy to find yourself concentrating on one panel member, perhaps because you feel more comfortable talking to them. Try to engage with everyone. Introduce yourself to all of them when you arrive. Remember their names and use them. Focus on each questioner, but address your answers to the whole panel.

4. Stay calm and in control

With limited time and a number of people who want to ask you questions, panel interviews can put you under pressure and make you feel a bit overwhelmed. Don't play for time by waffling, but try to control the pace of the interview, taking the time to answer each question properly.

5. Make connections

It's important to show the panel you're a team player. Demonstrate your active listening skills by linking some of your answers back to earlier ones from other panel members. For example, if a senior doctor asks you about your IT skills, and then a senior physiotherapist asks you about how you would improve communication between departments, you could say something like, "As I explained to Doctor X earlier, my IT skills are strong, so firstly I would look at how we can use technology to improve information flow."

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