Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.
Several colleagues have mentioned lately that they experienced a “panel” interview. That is, they were interviewed by a group of people, either potential work associates or a mix of superiors and associates. In one case, the job seeker was confronted with a group of associates and supervising attorneys, five in all, who asked her “pressure” questions. Would she be able to handle an A-type environment? High performance expectations? A heavy workload? She came out of the interview fairly apprehensive, not knowing whether she wanted the job, or could work comfortably for this company!
Another colleague was interviewed by a group of future co-workers and the meeting was more of a discussion about the ins and outs of litigation, what courts he had appeared in, what types of cases, what resolutions had been achieved. The interviewee actually felt comfortable. He related that this type of interview technique was beneficial in that it allowed the associates to gauge whether they would be able to work well with the job candidate and that it also gave the job seeker a chance to preview the work environment and type of people with who he would be working.
The first example I consider a “stress” interview and I wonder if the purpose behind this type of interview is to create a situation where the candidate is put on the spot to see how he or she responds to that type of stress. Maybe it works. But keep in mind that a firm that favors this type of interview may harbor an antagonistic working environment.
The second example seemed to my friend a good way for both sides of the table to explore whether they could work well together and to learn about one another as a group. Maybe that works.
One of the challenges of this type of interview is that often, the interviewers start asking questions or making comments at the same time and it is difficult to keep your answers organized — you end up being the one trying to maintain order. And sometimes it is difficult to tell who the decision-maker is and you run the danger of addressing your answers to someone who is not the decision-maker.
Panel interviews can be irritating, creating an imbalance of power, and I don’t respond well to them. But apparently they are popular now and not all interviewees dislike them. I remember having an interview at a drug company years ago where I was asked, no doubt because of my sunny demeanor, whether I had ever had to do “anything difficult” in my life. Whatever, as they say. The thing to do was covered in a prior week’s blog, be prepared. Expect you might be faced with a panel interview, picture it and prepare for it. And don’t get irritated.