How to Prepare for a Panel Interview

You applied to a role, made it through the first stage with the recruiter (me!) and then find out you’re being moved to the next stage of the interview process which will be a panel interview. The idea of being interviewed by a group of people is enough to make anyone sweat.

What is a Panel Interview?

A panel interview is an interview with a hiring team, usually made up of the Hiring Manager plus any other relevant stakeholders or decision makers, and sometimes HR. Panel interviews are usually made up of between 2 and 5 people.

Why a Panel Interview?

Panel interviews can be extremely effective, namely because they save time for everyone by reducing the amount of interview rounds. They’re a more agile way of hiring and can speed up the process tenfold. Through including additional panel members, the hiring manager can gain more perspective on the candidate and it also reduces the risk of making a bad hire. On the flip side, it’s also an opportunity for the candidate to get a sense of who they’ll be working with as well as a feel for the company culture by meeting with multiple people.

As with any interview, preparation is key.

Research and Know Your Audience

Before any interview you should research the company to get a feel for their culture, vision and any recent news or activity. Being able to demonstrate in an interview that you’ve done your research on the company also shows the interviewers that you’re truly interested in that specific company and not just in finding employment. Additionally, research the panel members through a quick search on LinkedIn to learn more about who you’ll be meeting with and gain some context.

Bring Your Resume

Depending on how prepared the panel is, they may or may not already have your resume printed and prepped to meet with you. As a precaution (and to show how prepared you are) it’s always good to bring enough copies of your resume for everyone on the panel.

Prepare Examples

Before your interview, review the job description again. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions the panel will ask you based on the qualifications of the role and build out some strong examples. You’ll not only refamiliarize yourself with the role expectations which is important, but you’ll have great examples ready to draw on in the interview and hopefully relieve some nerves. 

Connect with Everyone

By this, I mean make sure you talk to everyone and make eye contact with everyone at some point in the interview. I’ve been a part of many panel interviews where the candidate is not inclusive of everyone in the room and intentionally or unintentionally focuses their attention only on the hiring manager.

Be Authentic

Interviews are where you can show your personality and build relationships with the hiring team. We love to meet with candidates and feel like we got a sense of their authentic selves whether it was through their humor, something bold they wore, their body language, or even a really strong work example they provided that demonstrated a quality we look for.

Come Prepared with Questions

Always come prepared with a few thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview. They’re a great way to differentiate yourself through crafting questions that show the panel your interest, your knowledge in the space and your ability to make connections. For a panel interview, think of a question that you would want to ask each panel member so that the Q&A is not just a conversation between yourself and the hiring manager.

Thank You Notes

Lastly, thank you notes through email go a long way and you would be surprised how underutilized they are. Briefly thank the panel for their time, reiterate your interest in the role, and let them know you’re looking forward to next steps in the process. If you don’t have the email addresses of the panel members you can reach out to the recruiter for their contact information or send the thank you note to the recruiter to please forward to the panel for their time.

Financial Advice that No Longer Applies

A $1000 emergency fund is enough

There is tons of advice out there from money experts as to how much you should have in your emergency fund and it will vary on your ability to save based on your income as well as what you realistically need based on your expenses. Most experts recommend having 3-6 months of living expenses stockpiled away, while some more aggressively suggest having a full year’s worth of expenses saved.

One of Dave Ramsey’s well-known pieces of advice is to have an emergency account with $1000 in it before you start paying off any of your high interest debt. It’s not bad advice but it’s extremely arbitrary and very likely that it wouldn’t even come close to covering an emergency.

The goal of your emergency fund should be to minimize the long-term impact that an unexpected bill or job loss could make to your finances and while I believe that having 3-6 months of expenses saved up is the best route of action, I recognize that this isn’t possible for everyone and working towards having even a small emergency fund will help mitigate worst case scenarios like having to borrow money from a family member or take out a loan. 

If you’re looking to increase your emergency fund but don’t think you can increase your contributions, take a hard look at your income vs your expenses. Are there places you can trim, or things you can cut out entirely, even for a period of time to build up your emergency savings? Alternatively, could you increase your income through starting a side hustle or taking on a part-time job?

Save 10% of your paycheque

Again, this isn’t bad advice, but 10% should be considered your starting point.

Let’s say you’re 25 when you start saving for retirement in a TFSA or an RRSP, you earn $50,000 a year and plan to retire at the age of 65. You start saving 10% of your after tax income each month and end up with a sum of 390k at age 65 (taking into account a high investment growth rate of 6.26%) This sounds like a large sum but over a 30 year retirement, it may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle even with government benefits. Yes, this is not taking into account salary increases, bonuses or any other windfalls you may have, but it also isn’t taking into account other things that can happen like periods where you may not be working or years where expenses come up and you have less ability to save.

The most common guideline is to aim to replace 70%-90% of your pre-retirement income. This is personal based on your situation and what expenses you anticipate having in retirement. Will you still have car loan payments? Will your mortgage be paid off? It also begs the question, what KIND of a retirement do you want to have? Do you want to be able to take off at your leisure to sip mojitos in Cabo or visit the south of France? Or are you a happy homebody who plans on staying local and living a more minimalist or fixed lifestyle?

Talking about money is rude

Most of us grew up with the notion that talking about money is taboo, including myself. You don’t share good financial news (brag). You don’t share your salary with colleagues. You don’t ask how much your friend pays in rent even thought it might help you get perspective for your own search. WHY?

Here’s the thing: knowledge is power. When you collaborate, you are more likely to find resources and learn information that can help you become more financially savvy, get paid more or grow your wealth, just to name a few. People often feel a lot of discomfort around their relationship with money, sometimes feeling they don’t earn enough or are ashamed of their debt, but when you start having those conversations you’re more likely to find out that you’re not the only one struggling. And interestingly enough, not talking about money is the strongest amongst the middle class because they have the most anxiety over where they fall on the spectrum.

Not talking about money also has implications for your earning potential over your career. For example, equal pay for equal work. How do you know if you’re being paid fairly? How can you advocate for yourself effectively if you don’t even know where you stand? You don’t stand to benefit from not talking about money, but your company might (we all saw what happened with Conde Nast this year).

Remember that if you’ve ever had a question or a concern about money whether it be investing, saving or debt repayment, people in your life probably have too and they might stand to benefit from conversation as well.

Retire at 65

Technically speaking, the average retirement age across the public and private sectors in Canada is actually 63.6 but close enough.

With the gig economy and the FIRE movement amongst other things, retirement no longer looks the way that it used to and there is now more than one way to go about it. While there are still many folks who plan to retire at 65 (or are eyeing slightly earlier), there is also a growing population of people who plan on extending their working lives and never retiring, or conversely, those who have joined the FIRE movement and are aiming for an early retirement in their 30’s or 40’s through rigorous saving and investing habits.

There are also those who plan on taking mini retirements. Not to be confused with a vacation or a sabbatical, a mini retirement is taking time away from work for an extended period that is defined and clearly planned for to ensure your finances stay on track. Mini retirements can be as short as a few months or as long as a few years.

In short, we are redefining what we want out of retirement including when and how we get there. Those employed are also less likely to depend on their employer’s retirement accounts and lean more towards securing financial independence through their own actions.

How to Get Poached From Your Current Job

Searching for a new job can be time consuming. Navigating through online application portals, creating new cover letters, logins and profiles each time you apply to a role at a different company. But what if you could potentially bypass this process and have opportunities come to you?

Passive recruiting or sourcing is a proactive approach recruiters use to identify and engage with qualified candidates rather than relying on applications. Sourcing is usually geared towards mid to senior level roles and industries or functions where there is a shortage of talent, but can also be geared towards high volume roles the recruiter might need to build a pipeline of candidates for.

So what can YOU do to get noticed? Thoughtfully building a complete LinkedIn profile can make a big difference in whether your profile even gets shown to recruiters based on their searches. Here are some tips to optimize your profile and make yourself easily searchable on LinkedIn.

Keep your Profile Up to Date and Complete

You want your LinkedIn profile to create a compelling picture of your experience and qualifications; it shows that you’ve put time and effort into your online presence. A bare or incomplete profile tells me that you’re not active on LinkedIn and thus more unlikely to respond to my InMail. At minimum, I recommend using a professional or high-quality photo for your profile picture and detailing your experience, education, certifications and accomplishments.

Your headline, summary and profile background are great places to customize and inject personality. Your summary in particular is a great space to optimize. When most users visit your Profile on LinkedIn they’ll only see the first few lines of your summary, but in LinkedIn Recruiter the entire summary is made visible to the Recruiter by default and can set you apart.

Lastly, including how to get in touch with you on your profile indicates that you’re open to hearing from Recruiters and thus more likely to be contacted. It’s as simple as including “Connect with me here or email me at myname@email.com!”

Make Your Profile Search-Friendly

Keywords

Having relevant keywords in your profile on LinkedIn can greatly magnify your visibility to Recruiters on LinkedIn (the same goes for your resume when you apply to postings!). A great way to identify keywords to include in your profile are to review job postings of roles you’re interested in pursuing and pull keywords from there.

For example, if I was searching for a candidate in Data Science I might use more technical keywords for required knowledge like “SQL” or “Python”. If I was searching for a Process Manager I might search for “Lean”, “Agile”, or “Six Sigma”. Based on your role and industry, identify the keywords that would be the most beneficial to your profile and incorporate them.

Industry

The industry you choose for your Profile also impacts your visibility to Recruiters on LinkedIn. An easy example is a Marketing Manager who works for a Retailer. The Marketing Manager could identify their industry as “Marketing and Advertising” but they could also identify it as “Retail”. My recommendation is that you choose your actual industry (in the above example, Retail). Recruiters frequently filter by specific industries to identify candidates who have even more tailored experience to the job they’re trying to fill.

Job Titles

This section applies to those whose job titles may not reflect their role. For example, if your job title reads more junior than your role actually is, make sure you include a description of your role in the experience section.

I have also seen some very uncommon job titles that likely wouldn’t turn up in a search (shout out to the Apple Geniuses and Happiness Managers). If this is you – keywords will be your best friend. Utilize keywords throughout your profile to make sure you’re found for relevant roles.

Skills

LinkedIn gives you 50 slots for you to call out your skills – use them! And think about all of the different ways someone might search for those skills. For example, if you’re looking for a Sales Director role you could include “sales”, “sales strategy” and “sales management”.

Include a Current Position

Even if you’re not working, include a current position. Many recruiters will search using the ‘Current Job Title’ field, so if you don’t have a current title with relevant keywords, you won’t show up. There are a number of routes you can take here including using titles like: “Finance Manager seeking New Opportunity” or “Experienced Marketing Professional”.

Engage

Recruiters have the ability to filter through candidates by who has engaged with their company and who are more likely to respond based on a number of factors. If the recruiter has a large pool of candidates and needs to cut it down further, they’re likely to use these filters to do so.

Ways to Engage

-Follow company pages that you’re interested in

-Engage with company posts through likes and comments

-Apply to roles you’re interested in through LinkedIn – you’ll show up as a past applicant to the recruiter at the respective company

-If you are actively searching for a new role, turn on “Open to Job Opportunities” on your LinkedIn Profile. Fill in the types of roles you’re looking for and select Only Recruiters so that it’s visible to Recruiters but not to your network.

Be Responsive

You don’t necessarily have to be active on LinkedIn, but you do need to be responsive. Having an updated profile won’t do you any good if you’re not checking your messages frequently and you miss the opportunity altogether. If you know you’re not the type to be on LinkedIn frequently, make sure you’re set up to receive message notifications via email.

Side note: if the above has already happened and you missed your chance for an opportunity but you’re still very interested in the company, let the recruiter know. They may be able to pipeline you and keep you in mind for future roles that arise (there’s a reason they reached out to you).

In summary, LinkedIn is a great tool for recruiters, but it’s also a space that job seekers can optimize in order to reap the benefits. Put some time and effort into building a complete and compelling LinkedIn profile and you can greatly increase the chance of opportunities coming your way.

How My Measures of Success and Happiness at Work Have Shifted

Over the last few months I’ve reflected on my career to date and what makes me so happy doing what I’m doing. I started thinking about me 10 years ago and realized how dramatically my measures of success and happiness at work had shifted. 10 years ago, I was working on my bachelor’s degree, counting down to the day when I could join the workforce and climb my way up the corporate ladder to what would make me happy – a great title and lots of money (you know, the usual business grad mindset). Obviously, my definition of success was very rigid but also limited.

7 years later and I’ve found I have new measures of success and happiness at work that boil down to three simple questions:

Am I learning?

This is a biggie. I’ve been very privileged in my role to take part in projects that interest me, including projects that span way beyond the scope of my normal role and challenge me.

Am I inspired?

Since I started working (including my jobs in high school and university!) I have had the good fortune to work with some exceptional leaders and massively talented people, all of which inspire me to do more and set higher goals than I initially set for myself.

Do I feel valuable?

Does my work feel like I’m making a difference? Does it give me a sense of purpose? Do I feel like my contributions are recognized and valued by my team?

It’s a great thing to dream and set goals, monetary or non-monetary. Striving for the next step is important. But it’s also important to critically think about your roles to really define what makes you jump out of bed in the morning – this exercise may even change some of your goals!