There is no doubt that panel interviews make people more nervous than the traditional one on one interview situation. You only have to think about the looks on the faces of ‘The Voice’ contestants to know it’s really scary being judged by a group of people all at once who are judging your abilities in a short period of time. The panel interview does not need to be feared as long as you prepare properly. The first thing thing you need to do is consider why employers use panel interviews and what they hope to get out of them.
Why Do Employers Like the Panel Interview:
- Saves Time – Getting everyone who needs to have input into the hiring process in the one room saves time and money and gets you to the decision point much faster.
- Gains Buy In – Once the interview is over the group will sit and discuss each candidate and come to a decision. If everyone is happy with a candidate there is less chance of regret or concerns later on.
- Pressure Test – The group setting puts the candidate under more pressure and allows the employer to see how well you perform in a high pressure situation.
- Tests Social Skills – The panel will consist of different personalities and often different departments and managerial levels. Employers will observe how you interact with all these different dynamics and asses your cultural fit within the organisation.
How to Prepare for a Panel Interview:
1. Confirm the Panel Members and their Roles
Before you begin to develop your interview answers you need to understand who you will be preparing them for as this could change the answers you select and how you phrase them. Make sure you do the following:
- Ask the recruiter who will be on the panel and what each persons job title is.
- Ask if the recruiter knows the job description of each member and what they may be looking for in regards to the role.
- Try and identify who the key decision maker will be. Is it the person you will report to or the department head?
- Look up each member online, LinkedIn etc… Find out everything you can about them and what you think they may be looking for.
- See if you can develop any links with any panel members that you could reference. EG worked for the same company in the past, know the same people, same industry etc…
2. Research the Company and the Job Description
This one goes without saying. You need to prepare exceptionally well because everyone on the panel will ask you questions from different perspectives and you need to be able to answer them all with confidence. Make sure you investigate the following:
- The company website, social assets especially mission statements and goals
- The company’s competitors should be investigated as thoroughly as the company itself
- Industry and media publications
3. Prepare Answers to Behavioural Interview Questions
Select a range of experiences and projects which you can showcase during the interview. Think about the panel members and make sure your answers are relevant to them and their departments. Then make sure you:
- Prepare answers to a wide range of common behavioural interview questions
- Use the STAR technique to develop logical, specific answers that employers respond well to
- Conduct mock interviews with friends to make sure your delivery is a s good as the content
- Remember to cross reference your answers with panel members. For example, if you gave an answer about your interaction with the sales department early in the interview and are then asked about how you engage with other departments during a project you can refer back with….as I mentioned to John earlier when we discussed the way I interacted with the Sales Department I…
4. Divide Your Attention Evenly Between Panel Members
It’s easy to just look at the one panel member who asked you the question or to focus on the more friendly members of the panel but you often don’t know who the key decision maker is. It could be the quiet, less friendly panel member. Make sure you:
- First address the person who asked the question , then make eye contact with the other members as you work through your answer
- Use their names as much as you can, it makes things more personal and shows you paid attention
- Ask each person at least one question that is relevant to their key area
- Be aware of your body language – make good eye contact, shake hands firmly, sit up straight and stay calm
- Ask each person for their business card at the beginning or the end of the interview so you can send a follow up note to each person afterwards
5. Look the Part
Remember that you are being judged by more than one person. All of these people will have different perspectives on what looks professional. It is always best to play it safe during a panel interview. Download our free eBook – How to Dress for Your Interview.
- Wear a professional suit
- Stick to neutral colours
- Nothing too revealing
The panel interview requires slightly different preparation and behaviour to the traditional one on one interview. Follow our tips above and you will be fine. Just remember, the fact that so many people have made the time to meet you means they think you are worth the time and effort. Be prepared and you will impress them all.