Panel Interviews (with 2 or more people present) are quite common in both the public and private sector. However public sector interviews are generally more formal than the private sector. Now while interviews will always evoke some amount of stress and trepidation, if you come prepared, then you will be confident in the interview setting. Below are the key things you need to know about the public sector interview, so you don’t arrive unprepared.
- A panel that will usually consist of the same panel members that assessed your written application will interview you. The panel will usually comprise of 2 to 3 panel members and will normally include the immediate manager / supervisor to the role in question.
- Some agencies provide questions ½ hour prior to the interview, which will allow you time to prepare your answers before you meet with the selection panel.
- Each agency will conduct their own selection process, which could include an initial telephone interview, which is used as a screening process.
- Public service sector interviews are always very formal processes and each candidate will be assessed and scored against a set of criteria, in the same way that your responses to your written application were scored and ranked.
- The questions will usually always relate to the role in question, in particular the selection criteria and your written application. Additional questions may be asked, and these will normally be behaviour-based questions.
- There are usually no big surprises, but depending on the classification level, role or agency, you might also be required to undergo additional testing, such as psychometric testing, or testing of a specific skill.
- A scribe may be used in the process, namely a person that records detailed notes of what you and other candidates say at interview. These notes will be used during the assessment process, as well as provide recorded notes to ensure that the decision making process was fair and transparent.
- Depending on the agency, you will usually be able to take in notes and your application and on occasion read directly from your notes. (Check with the agency in question, before reading directly from your notes.)
- The selection process will be based on the principles of competitive merit, in the same way that your written application was based on the principles of competitive merit.
- Make sure that you make eye contact with everyone on the panel (although this is sometimes difficult when panel members are taking detailed notes during the process).
Now that you know a little more about the public sector process, you need to prepare for this interview. My 2 tips:
Research the agency
Arm yourself with as much information as possible about the agency, in particular if going for a higher-level position and you are not already familiar with the agency. This includes scanning through annual reports and understanding policy statements related to the role in question. Since senior management roles and professional roles, contribute and / or translate broad strategies, it will be vital that you understand the role within the context of the organisational goals and strategies.
Once you are armed with this knowledge relating to the Agency, then you are in the position to use this information to help shape your answers to the interview questions.
Keep the panel interview in perspective
Generally speaking, people perform better if they have the right headspace. Make sure you don’t turn the panel interview into something bigger than it represents. Sometimes we get so worked up about the interview that it becomes a ‘do or die experience’, where we get so nervous and stressed about the process and the need to succeed that we become almost irrational. Yes, this panel interview is important (today and perhaps this week) – but keep it in perspective. It might be emotionally difficult, but if you don’t get the job, you won’t starve, there will be other opportunities around the corner, and the more pragmatic you are about the process, the more likely it is that you will perform better in the interview.