For most people, job interviews are a source of anxiety. For job candidates who must present themselves in front of a selection committee, the process can be even more stressful.
A selection committee is made up of several people, some of whom may not speak a word as they observe you interact with other committee members. The committee can be led by a human resources specialist, the immediate supervisor for the position being filled, an external consultant, an internal client, a member of the administrative council or even a future colleague. Sometimes, a committee may be made up of a company’s entire management team.
Regardless of how a committee is organized, interviewing in front of one tends to be a very formal situation, which makes it all the more intimidating. As an interviewee you know that members of the committee will be commenting on your words and actions as soon as you leave, and that you’ll be compared to other candidates seen by the committee on the same day.
Knowing this, it’s essential that you prepare yourself for the challenges of presenting yourself in front of a selection committee. Here are four tricks to help you give the best impression possible!
Pay attention to the entire committee
Rarely in life do we find ourselves speaking to several people at once, and when we do, it can be unsettling. When meeting a committee, you need to expect that they may not react outwardly to what you’re saying, and several members may be taking notes. But you should still try to engage with the quietest committee members; don’t focus strictly on the person who is asking you questions.
When speaking, allow your gaze to travel and reach every member of the committee to ensure that your presence is felt. Smile, but try not to overdo it. These simple gestures will help you come across as warm and personable. Remember that the members of the committee are human beings like anyone else, and that they have their own opinions – they aren’t ice-cold, ruthless judges.
Quickly adapt your approach if necessary
The overall tone of an interview can vary dramatically from one committee to another.
Some selection committees are very formal and subject interviewees to a highly-structured interview, where each question is read in sequence. In these cases committee members will typically write down your responses, but may not provide much feedback or commentary.
Other committees are more relaxed and aim to take the stress out of the interview by speaking informally or making jokes and easy small talk before starting the interview.
Pay close attention to these indicators and adjust your approach as necessary. It’simportant for you to prove that you can be flexible when you need to be; you could be judged negatively if you come across as too familiar, or conversely, too distant.
Be prepared to deliver a key message, rather than memorized answers to questions
It’s difficult to find out in advance exactly what kind of questions you will be asked by a committee, but you can keep a few essential points in mind that you want to communicate.
For example, you may want to show your penchant for innovation by talking about a time you created something, such as a new work process. During your interview with the committee, look for an appropriate opportunity to bring up the point you want to drive home.
Also, you can use your answers to the questions you’re asked to deliver your message. Questions that are general in nature (“Tell me about yourself”, “Tell me about something you achieved”, “What are your strengths?”) can present such an opportunity.
Time is short during committee meetings, so you won’t be able to go on at length – expect to be cut off if you do. Also keep in mind that many other candidates have responded to the same questions, and more will respond after you, so aim to be concise but dead-on with your answers.
Avoid talking about anything that doesn’t add value to your candidacy. Cut all superfluous details from your stories: “One time, I worked Downtown at a company, and my boss’s name was Bruno…” The same goes for vague answers that don’t illuminate any aspect of your candidacy: “I like working in places where the job is enjoyable, and the environment is harmonious” isn’t saying anything, and doesn’t advance you as a candidate.
Cover a lot of bases in your responses
Selection committees often use spreadsheets to note your responses and to compare your answers with those of other candidates. This allows them to save time and to apply a certain rigor when evaluating candidate responses. Knowing this, you can answer strategically with the goal of obtaining a “high score” during the evaluation process.
One way to do this is to not repeat yourself. If you’ve already mentioned an aspect of your experience, don’t talk about it again. Instead, try to expand the scope of the conversation to include your other strengths.
Finally, remember that while interviewing with a committee or a single interviewer are different experiences, the objective is the same: to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the job.
And if you’re really having a hard time preparing for your interview, the best thing to do is to conduct a practice interview with a friend!
By Mathieu Guénette