When interviewing for a job, one of the types of interviews you may encounter is the panel interview. In this situation, you will meet with at least two employees who will ask you questions to evaluate your qualifications as a candidate. Understanding how panel interviews work and preparing for them can help ensure you make a positive impression on your interviewers. In this article, we provide a list of panel interview tips to help you perform successfully.
What is a panel interview?
A panel interview is a type of job interview conducted by at least two employees. The panel varies but may include supervisors from different departments or colleagues you likely would work alongside if hired. Often, the interviewers take turns asking you questions to assess your qualifications as a candidate and determine whether you fit the role.
Do's and don'ts for panel interviews
You can use the following 12 tips to help make you feel more confident during your next panel interview:
Research the interview panelists
Find out which staff members will be conducting your panel interview. Then research these individuals and their roles at the company to help make connections and develop questions. Understanding their roles can also help you determine what types of questions they may ask. Remember the essential details about your interviewers, such as their names and job titles. Address each panelist correctly upon meeting them to demonstrate your professionalism and preparedness. If you found out something interesting about the panelists, such as common interests, you can bring up those details to make small talk or build rapport.
Study potential questions
When you know who will be interviewing you, you can brainstorm the types of questions they might ask. These questions often relate to their role at the company and how you would interact with it. For example, if one of the panelists runs the marketing department, you can expect questions about how your role would support marketing efforts at the company. Or they may ask about what experience you have collaborating with marketing professionals.
Panel interviews also often include situational or behavioral questions that assess how you would perform the role's responsibilities and fit into the organization. These questions often ask how you have handled specific work situations in the past, which you can use to demonstrate how you would perform in the new role. Some examples of interview questions you may encounter include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- How would your former colleagues or supervisors describe you?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a colleague. How did you resolve the situation?
- Tell me about a time when you failed at work. What did you learn from that experience?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Practice your answers
You may want to develop a list of potential questions, then start drafting and practicing your responses. Review your resume and job posting to ensure you know which relevant qualifications and accomplishments you want to mention during the conversation. Tailor your answers to the role and demonstrate how your abilities will help the team meet its goals.
Whether you practice alone or in front of someone else, it can help you feel more comfortable speaking about yourself. When you have prepared your answers beforehand, it can also help you appear more confident during the interview. If you practice with someone else, get their feedback on your performance. Then you can find ways to make any necessary improvements.
Prepare questions for interviewers
Your interviewers will likely set aside time to ask you whether you have any questions for them. While some questions will come naturally based on your conversation, try to prepare some in advance. Develop questions specific to the company, the role or the interviewers to prove you took the time to prepare and research the opportunity.
You can also think about what matters most to you in a job and form questions around those topics. Your questions serve as an opportunity to gain insights about the role and assess whether it meets your needs. The answers to these questions could impact your interest in pursuing the job. For example, if you are focused on roles that provide career advancement, you may ask whether the company offers training or professional development opportunities to employees.
Bring proper materials
If your panel interview is in-person, bring sufficient copies of your resume, business card or other relevant documents, such as your portfolio. These materials can provide additional information about you or your work. Having sufficient materials ensures no one has to share documents and can take them for further review.
You may want to take notes during your interview. Take a pen and notepad to your interview or have it next to you when conducting remote interviews. At the start of the interview, ask the interviewers if it is okay to take notes. Try to spend most of your time interacting with the interviewers, as looking at your notes too often may make you appear distracted.
Build connections with the interviewers
Treat your interview as a conversation rather than a question-and-answer session. To do this, you can build rapport and make connections with the interviewers. Your responses also need to address each person's concerns or needs. Another effective way to build connections is to refer to interviewers directly. Use their names when answering their questions or refer to something they said earlier in the conversation. For example, if you received a question about managing teams, you could say something like this:
"Joanne, you mentioned earlier how important teamwork is to this role. I completely agree that it is crucial to a productive work environment. Last year, I organized weekly lunches for my team. As a result, I noticed they began building stronger relationships, and it made their future project collaborations much more successful."
Related: Building Rapport: Tips and Examples
Do not focus your attention on one person
You may know that one of the interviewers has a higher role than the others. Avoid treating them better than anyone else or focusing your attention solely on them. Holding the highest position does not necessarily mean that they have all the decision-making power on hiring you. That is why you must show equal interest in each interviewer.
During the interview, you may find it easier to build rapport with some of the interviewers over the others. This rapport can be a positive sign, demonstrating that you could work together effectively. However, remain mindful of the other panelists and engage with them. In some situations, this may require you to adjust how you communicate to match their style. Or, if one panelist is more extroverted than the others, try to move focus on the quieter interviewers when possible to demonstrate you want to hear from them.
Do not forget about body language
Interviewers appreciate candidates who demonstrate confidence when answering questions. But it is about more than the answers you provide, and you can display it through your body language. Always sit up straight and maintain your focus on the interviewers. Slouching can make you seem disinterested in the conversation, while avoiding eye contact or fidgeting while talking may make you appear nervous.
Using eye contact and smiling during the interviewer can also showcase your interest in the interviewers. These body language cues make you seem more friendly and approachable—these are qualities that make people enjoy working with you. Similarly, use open body language by avoiding crossing your arms to demonstrate that you welcome the conversation rather than feel defensive.
Do not rush your responses
Give yourself time to think about your responses rather than rushing to provide answers. When you rush, you may forget the points you planned to include while preparing. Speaking too quickly can also make you appear nervous. With various personalities in the room, taking a moment to breathe and think allows you to control the conversation's pace.
When necessary, start your response with something like this: "That is a good question. I need a moment to think about that." Then take a deep breath and allow yourself to collect your thoughts on the topic. The interviewers care most about the quality of answers, so they appreciate that your thoughtful consideration. It may demonstrate that your thoughtfulness in other areas of work, such as decision-making.
Do not leave without contact information
Thank each interviewer individually with a handshake. Then you can ask them for their contact information, which you need to send thank you notes. You may also want to ask the panel whom you should reach out to with any questions to ensure you contact the appropriate person. If you do not get the contact information, you may find it online or ask someone else you know at the company to share it.
Send thank-you notes to each person within 24 hours of the interview. Try to make each note unique by incorporating details you learned about the recipient during the interview. The notes should contain some common elements, such as thanking the interviewers for their time and reiterating your interest in the position.
Do not overlook listening skills
A panel interview can flow like a conversation, which means it is equally crucial for you to listen as it is to talk. Stay focused on each interviewer as they speak rather than allowing yourself to get distracted thinking of your next response. To demonstrate that you are listening, you can use non-verbal cues such as nodding your head and maintaining eye contact. You can also use verbal cues, such as repeating information brought up previously or paraphrasing what your interviewer says.
These methods can also help you formulate more thoughtful answers because you understand what the interviewers want. Active listening is essential to a productive and collaborative workplace, so demonstrating these skills during an interview can prove your value. When interviewers notice that you listen to what they say, it can also make it easier to build rapport and trust. They appreciate it when you show interest in them as individuals, rather than just as interviewers.
Do not get overwhelmed
Meeting with a group of people rather than an individual can be overwhelming for some. These interviewers may talk over one another sometimes as they compete to have their questions answered. Try to be patient with them and ask for clarification when you need it. One way to gain clarification is to repeat the question back to the interviewers to ensure you understood them correctly. They will appreciate that you make an effort to provide a relevant or appropriate answer, rather than trying to guess what they meant to ask.
Sometimes, you may have multiple interviewers asking similar questions. Avoid mentioning that you already answered that question, and try to restate your answer in another way. Now that you have a second chance to answer the question, you may even find opportunities to include details that you did not initially. Remember that different interviewers may have different perspectives or opinions on the same topic, so try to cater your response to the asker's needs.