You’ve just been notified that you have advanced to the next stage of the hiring progress, but then the recruiter mentions two words that you did not want to hear: panel interview.
Interviewing in front of one person is already stressful enough, so imagine speaking with multiple interviewers at once. You have to impress them all to get a job offer.
In this guide, we discuss panel interviews, why they are used, and how to best prepare for them.
What is a Panel Interview?
A panel interview is a job interview where multiple interviewers are present. The panel may be composed of the manager, a team member with whom you will be working closely if offered the job, or other people involved in the hiring process.
During the interview, every member of the panel will ask you questions. These may be behavioral, situational, or about your personality and work ethic. For instance, you could be asked:
- What is your biggest strength?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell us about yourself.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Tell us about a time you made a mistake. How did you correct it?
- Walk us through a situation in which you had a conflict with your manager. How did you resolve this conflict?
- Give us an example of a time when you had to manage a heavy workload.
Why Do Employers Use Panel Interviews?
Panel interviews are useful to employers because they allow multiple people to evaluate a candidate at once. Instead of having the candidate conduct multiple interviews with different people—or having to rely extensively on the notes taken in one interview—the employer brings in several decision makers into the same room.
Panel interviews allow the employer to evaluate how you react under pressure. Handling a panel interview adroitly is a good sign that you can keep calm in stressful situations.
How to Prepare for Your Next Panel Interview
If you have a panel interview coming up, you may be wondering how to prepare for it. What research do you need to do? What do you need to bring, if anything?
Below are a few tips to help you prepare and succeed in your next panel interview.
Tip #1: Research each individual interviewer
Try to find out who the interviewers are before the interview. In many cases, the employer will tell you. Even if they don’t tell you the names of the interviewers, they will at least give you the job titles.
Knowing the name and role of each interviewer will help you make a good impression in the beginning. To go the extra mile, try to find out a bit more about each interviewer, such as some of their professional accomplishments.
Make sure you research the company beforehand and find out about its main mission, goals, and ambitions. This will improve your answers and show the hiring managers that you are organized.
Tip #2: Involve the group
During a panel interview, it can be easy to focus your attention on one interviewer, sidelining the rest. In many cases, one interviewer takes the lead, while the others assume a more passive role.
Try to involve the entire panel during the discussion. If you are asked a question, aim to give examples that the entire panel can relate with.
For example, if you’re meeting with a human resources manager, you want to give examples of your soft skills. If a web engineer is also in the room, talk about your technical skills as well.
When given the opportunity to ask questions, tailor them to the entire panel. This will make everyone feel involved in the process and will relieve some of the tension associated with speaking in front of a panel.
Tip #3: Bring your resume and cover letter
The interviewers may already have copies of your resume and cover letter, but it is never a bad idea to bring a few extra copies. If you bring these documents with you, you can share them with the panel in case they didn’t bring them.
Bring enough copies of each document to hand out to each member of the panel, plus a few additional ones as backup.
Tip #4: Don’t rush through the interview
Suppose there are four interviewers on the panel. That’s four times as many as in a regular one-on-one interview. That means the number of questions that the interviewers will want to get through is significantly larger.
Take your time and don’t rush your answers. While there may be a limited amount of time for your interview, you don’t want to speak too quickly. If you try to rush through your answers, you may end up communicating unnecessary information or forgetting key points.
One of the interviewers may stop you before you get to the end of an answer. If this happens, wrap up by mentioning any critical points you want to make, then move on.
To help you prepare, consider asking a friend or family member to give you a mock interview. This will recreate the environment in which you will be interviewed.
Tip #5: Prepare for follow-up questions
During a panel interview, you may be asked more follow-up questions than in a regular interview. This is because everyone on the panel will seek different information depending on their field of expertise and expectations.
The best way to prepare for this is to prepare multiple examples that you can give to common interview questions. For instance, for the question “What is your greatest strength?” you may want to prepare two or three different examples you can give in case you are asked to go into more depth.
With multiple people firing questions at you, panel interviews can be intimidating. No wonder some refer to them as “firing squad” interviews.
One helpful way to prepare for your next panel interview is to think of it as a conversation. This mindset allows you to focus more on crafting good responses rather than worrying about the differences between panel interviews and regular interviews.
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By following the tips in this article, you will be better prepared to make a positive impression on your potential employer in your next panel interview.
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