A panel interview is similar to a standard job interview with the main difference being that a single interviewer is replaced by an entire panel. Several people will interview you at the same time, each asking you different panel interview questions.
Needless to say, this can be a very intimidating environment where you, as the interviewee, may feel up against the wall and unsettled. Job interviews are nerve-wracking at the best of times but a whole panel of people is downright daunting for many. The following article will hopefully give you some reassurance by providing advice on how to handle a panel interview.
Why not a Regular One to One Interview?
If panel interviews are so universally disliked by interviewees, then why do them at all? Firstly, the distress caused to the interviewee may be a reason in itself. It sounds somewhat sinister, but holding a panel interview gives the panelists and hiring manager a chance to see just how the candidate copes under pressure. In certain jobs, this is a trait you will need to have so it makes sense to test it for real in an interview of panel interviewers that all ask questions.
In other instances, panel interviews are simply done as a matter of convenience. The employers may have decided that a group interview is the easiest way for all the interviewers to be able to make an assessment of you and a hiring decision. Instead of having multiple individual interviews, a panel interview can do the same job in one fell swoop.
Another type of interview you may come across that is similar to a panel interview is a group interview. You may not be facing a firing squad here but the situation can be equally uncomfortable for some. Here, one interviewer assesses several candidates at any one time. People usually bring their business cards and CVs, so bring multiple copies of your resume, one for each of the interviewers at the company is best.
You may also have scenarios where a panel interviews multiple interviewees at once. While this may be an efficient hiring process for the company, it makes it harder for you to build rapport. You’ll need to have positive body language and a confident, assertive demeanor to stand out from the crowd.
Keep these ideas in mind when you are preparing for your interview questions. Ultimately, the interviewers or hiring managers want you to do well, so prepare some questions to ask about the company that highlight what’s most important to you in your job search and as a person.
How to Prepare for a Panel Interview
As a job seeker, the onus is on you to come prepared to answer the interview questions. Preparation and practice will increase your confidence and automatically make you a more promising candidate.
Preparing for a panel interview isn’t too dissimilar from preparing for a regular one to one interview. Make sure to research the company thoroughly, read through the job description and role carefully, and come ready with answers to some of the most common interview questions. Also, make sure you are ready to talk about your past successes and career goals during the interview process. Show your personality to the interview panel and be yourself.
What to Expect During the Panel Interview
A panel interview can be stressful, but there are plenty of interview tips and small things you can do to alleviate that anxiety and present yourself in the best possible light. Here are some of the most helpful tips for doing just that when sitting through a panel interview:
Speak to Everyone
Job seekers should begin with an introduction of themselves and make sure to address everyone individually. Try to balance out who you’re speaking to as some people may have more hiring power than others so you don’t want to alienate those. Speak to everyone in the same way and show that you can deal with multiple people and a variety of different personalities.
It’s a simple thing but it can slip through the cracks when we get nervous. Make sure to make eye contact with everyone as you speak to them. Switch eye contact between panelists when you’re addressing the group and keep an eye on their individual responses.
Obviously, not everyone will react in the same way to your answers so don’t be disheartened if some reactions are less positive than others. If someone’s reaction isn’t entirely positive, do not overthink it and let it affect you moving forward in the job interview.
Try to Make it a Conversation, Not an Interrogation
If an interview feels more like a casual conversation between professionals rather than a one-sided interrogation, then you know you are doing something right. The relentless question and answer format is difficult to escape from, particularly in this style of interview, but if you find yourself having a more standard conversation then you are likely on the right track.
At times, you may find yourself being asked the same kind of questions by different interviewers. In these situations, it’s important to keep your composure and simply answer the question again using different words. Take this as an opportunity to add more detail to your previous answers and show that you can handle anything that is thrown at you by an interviewer.
After a Panel Interview
If you have the contact details of the interviewers, it may be a good idea to thank them all individually for the opportunity. The notes can be similar but try to make them at least a little bit individual for a nice touch.