Editor's note: This is the fourth article in a series providing interview tips and techniques for attorneys. Links to previous articles in the series follow this article.
Rather than being intimidated by facing multiple interviewers at the same time, you can ace a panel interview with some preparation. Basically, you need to follow the rules for one-on-one interviews, but with a few tweaks. Just as with any interview, you must do your homework regarding the firm, job, and interviewers, and be prepared to sell your skills and appropriateness for the position. You should always be prepared for the possibility of a panel (several interviewers at once) or serial interview (a series of individual interviews) as you may not get advance warning, so bring several extra copies of your resume to any interview.
Team interviews are favored by organizations for a variety of reasons. It allows the maximum number of the firm's attorneys to meet the candidate in the shortest amount of time. This is especially useful when the candidate is traveling long distances, reducing the need for multiple trips. This format allows for a variety of viewpoints or areas of expertise to be brought to bear on the hiring decision. Furthermore, the interviewers are accountable to each other, so a panel interview tends to stay more on-track and reduces the impact of personal biases.
If properly conducted, a team interview can give the firm a more complete picture of you, and you may get a fuller picture of the organization and the job opening as well. Another advantage for the candidate is that you can avoid repeating the answers to similar questions posed in each of a series of interviews. Therefore, you may also have more time to provide greater detail.
MAKE A CONNECTION
As the candidate, your initial task in a team interview is to establish rapport with each of the panel members. If possible, before the interview, get the names of the persons with whom you will be meeting and research them on the organization's website. This will give you a level of comfort with each of them as well as revealing possible bases for establishing an initial connection.
The interview should start with introductions. Greet and shake hands with each of the interviewers, attempting to remember their names. One strategy is to take out a pad and pen when you first sit down and note down their names in the order they are seated. Or, ask them for business cards and lay them out before you in order. This will enable you to use their names when you respond to their questions.
Do your best to ascertain the titles and functions of each panelist, and where they fit in the organization, relative to the position for which you are interviewing. A corporation may have you meet the general or division counsel, staff counsel, business people such as the CFO or CEO, and someone from personnel. A law firm interviewing team might include the managing partner, the head of the department, other partners from the practice group or related practice groups, and associates.