Preparing for a Panel Interview

You were thrilled to be called in for an interview.

And then you learned that it was going to be a panel format.

To increase efficiency and shorten the hiring cycle, more employers are using a panel or group of interviewers. This option may make things easier for them, but it can make the situation even more daunting for you – if you’re unprepared.

So do the smart thing! Invest a little extra time in getting ready for this unique interviewing format. If you’re adequately prepared, you’ll be less anxious and more focused (which is critical when you’re fielding questions from a team of interviewers). These tips from PrideStaff will help you get ready to ace your panel interview:

Learn what you can. In a panel interview, you’ll likely be interviewed by managers and executives from throughout the organization.

  • If possible, find out who will be interviewing you. Ask the person who scheduled your interview for the names and job titles of your interviewers. Then research these individuals online to understand their areas of expertise and determine what might be important to each of them.
  • Do your homework. Make sure you understand what the entire organization does – not just the department for which you’re interviewing.

Try to relax. It’s natural to be even more nervous in a panel setting than you would be in a typical interview situation. So make a conscious effort when you step into the room to take a deep breath, calm your mind and focus your attention. Remember, you’ve been asked to interview because you’re a viable candidate – have confidence in your abilities!

Greet your interviewers. Introduce yourself to, and shake hands with, each individual. As you do so, mentally repeat each person’s name (and write it down once you’re seated), so you’re more likely to remember them once questions start.

Field questions one at a time. Interviewers may ask follow-up questions before you’ve finished answering your current question, so be prepared. Modify your communication style and eye contact so that you appear confident and answer questions effectively:

  • Resist the temptation to stare at a single person. Begin your response looking directly at your questioner, then make eye contact with other panel members as you finish.
  • Maintain your train of thought. Start by answering your first question; respond to the follow-up question next; end by asking both parties of you have adequately addressed their concerns.
  • Repeat yourself if necessary. Interviewers interpret your answers differently, so patiently rephrase your answers if you’re asked similar questions multiple ways.

Win over the “bad cop.” In most panel interviews, there will be at least one person who isn’t on your side (yet). Though you may want to direct responses to the individuals who are clearly in your corner, a smarter strategy is to directly address the antagonist who isn’t convinced of your candidacy. Doing show demonstrates confidence, while showing your ability to read an audience and tackle a challenge.

Thank and follow-up with each interviewer. Shake hands, gather business cards, and send personalized thank you notes to each member of the panel.

Need more interview assistance? 

First, read this earlier post on avoiding the pre-interview waiting room jitters.

Then, register with PrideStaff. When you come in, you’ll interview with an employment expert in a low-stress environment.  You can practice your interview skills and get pointers on how to improve your panel interview performance. 

We know that looking for work can be stressful, and we’re here to ensure that you don’t just search, but succeed.  Contact the PrideStaff office in your area to find out more about great local job opportunities.