Can You Make a Career Move After 45?

Top tips for panel interview success

In our first article we looked at the psychology of going for a new job and all the fears that process raises. Today, we move on to how to be successful in a modern day selection process.

Staple diet of all selectors is the interview. In our first article we covered the basics of interview success. Today we move onto the next level - the panel interview.

These are tougher than one to ones. You are on show, on message, under the spotlight and being compared to others who you do not even know. Fun? No!

So what can you do to increase the likelihood of interview success?

  • Research, research, research. You need to know everything you can about the business AND all the people who are interviewing you. Look at their LinkedIn profiles, their role, their background and anything else you can find. This is not stalking – it is about anticipating what they need to ask and hear from you. Put yourself in their shoes. What will make them feel safe enough to say ‘yes’? You will need different ‘stories’ for each person.

  • Have your stories ready.Think about the skills required for the role and have strong examples for each. Your stories need to be focused and punchy:

  1. Situation you faced
  2. Task you faced
  3. Action you took
  4. Result you achieved
  5. Have an arsenal of stories ready to go.
  • Walk in strong and shake every hand.It is impossible to know within seconds who the real decision maker is and so give equal attention to each person. Remember to smile. Subconsciously they pick this up as confidence and ease.

  • Keep liquid control. If you are offered tea/coffee/water – opt for water. It is just easier to handle.

  • Watch your body language. Sit upright with your back pressed into the back of the chair. It will make you look alert and attentive – while also giving you the comfort of support. When answering a question, start by addressing the person who asked you and then scan your eye-contact around the panel.

  • Keep psychological control. Listen to every question and then give a straight answer – with your stories. If you ignore questions and just say what you want them to hear, you will be seen as a very irritating politician. Give them what they want. If you do not understand a question, say so and never ‘wing it’ in hope you might get to the point in which they are interested. At the end of answering a question, check you have given them the information they were seeking.

  • Be honest (with strength). If you are asked that age old (and rubbish) question ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ then be honest within reason. The old chestnut of turning a positive into a negative e.g. ‘I am so dedicated to work I get little self-time’; I am a perfectionist’ has had its day. Far stronger is the ‘hate-learned’ approach in which you acknowledge a weakness but say how you have overcome it. E.g. ‘I find giving really tough messages very uncomfortable, but I requested training and over time I have developed an ability to deal with issues rather than let them fester.’

  • Have your questions. If you have done your research you will have a question for every person on the panel. Never bring up the package on a first interview and asking about the holiday allowance is a fast-track to rejection. Finish with asking the panel if they have any more questions for you and surprise them with the offer to ask questions they were not sure they should. Strong and Sassy.


Finally, if you are nervous, try to change your self-talk. This is not a trial by mob – it is a chance to impress several people at the same time.

Next time we will look at psychometrics.

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