How To Succeed in a Panel Interview: Tips and Questions
A person sits before three individuals during a panel interview.
In addition to your cover letter and resume, a job interview is a crucial way for a potential employer to assess your strengths as a candidate. Although many interviews include one-on-one conversations with the hiring manager, some involve talking with several members of the hiring team at once. As these multifaceted conversations can be more challenging than traditional interviews, they often require additional preparation.
In this article, we discuss how to succeed in a panel interview, including some sample questions and answers.
What is a panel interview?
A panel interview is a conversation with two or more team members of a hiring team. The panel might include your potential supervisor, a human resources representative or other decision-makers.
In a panel interview, each member has an opportunity to ask you questions about your experience, qualifications and goals. Hiring teams request panel interviews for a few common reasons:
Convenience: Many organizations require candidates to meet with several decision-makers during the hiring process. Scheduling a panel interview instead of a series of individual interviews can make the hiring process more efficient for everyone.
Challenge: Since panel interviews require adaptability and quick thinking, they can help a hiring team assess how you handle high-stress positions and substantial challenges.
Teamwork: Panel interviews create group dynamics, which can help a hiring team assess how you might handle teamwork and collaborations with groups of colleagues.
Perspective: Panel interviews allow more than one interviewer to collect valuable information and insight on a candidate.
How to succeed in a panel interview
Here are six steps to help you succeed in a panel interview with a potential employer:
1. Research and remember your interviewers
Take the time to research each member of the panel before your interview. Learn their names and job titles, and study key details such as their major accomplishments and important initiatives they've undertaken in the company. During the interview, address each member of the panel by their name to demonstrate your investment in the hiring process.
2. Bring enough materials for the entire panel
When you arrive for your interview, make sure you have enough materials to distribute to each member of the hiring team. Bring more business cards and copies of your resume than you think you need so you're adequately prepared.
3. Engage with every interviewer equally
During a panel interview, strive to engage with each interviewer individually so that you can build rapport with everyone equally. As you establish a conversational and collaborative environment, you can communicate your teamwork abilities. Try to give every panel member your attention when answering general questions. This is especially important if the interview is also a group interview, since it requires you to manage time effectively.
4. Take a conversational approach
To make your interview more than a standard question-and-answer session, turn the meeting into a conversation. Try referring to exchanges from earlier in the interview to indicate that you have been listening carefully and processing what your interviewers have said. Pay attention to non-verbal cues by turning to face each interviewer when you speak with them. You can also show your interest in the role with your own non-verbal cues such as a head nod or eye contact.
Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.
5. Prepare for follow-up questions
With two or more decision-makers involved, panel interviews tend to be more fast-paced and involve more extensive questioning than standard interviews.
You can expect one interviewer to ask a follow-up question after you've answered a query from another. Prepare by having several examples of qualifications, experiences and accomplishments to share each time an interviewer asks a more involved question.
6. Ask questions of your own
In addition to responding to the panel's inquiries, ask your interviewers some questions to demonstrate your interest. Try to brainstorm questions in advance as you research the company and the members of the hiring team. In the interview, inquire about projects, company goals or professional aspects unique to each panelist.
Panel interview example questions
Here are some common panel interview questions and example answers:
Tell us about yourself
Your answer to this question demonstrates why your skills and experience make you the right candidate for the job. When you answer, start with a short overview of your current career level before discussing your professional beginnings and accomplishments and what you want to achieve in the future.
Example: “I have worked for my current organization for three years and earned a promotion to team leader last year. Before that, I earned a bachelor's degree from City University of New York and a certification in business management from Ashworth College. I intend to use my ambition and experience to fulfill my goal of becoming an executive for a mission-driven organization.”
Why should we hire you?
Interviewers often raise this question to differentiate you from other applicants. When you answer, discuss what makes you a unique candidate and how you stand apart from the competition. Start by mentioning background details and past accomplishments that relate to the job opening before highlighting a single aspect that makes you a strong candidate.
Example: “My high-level problem solving and critical thinking skills are ideal for this position, and my leadership experience has prepared me for this advanced role. The marketing industry award I won last month demonstrates my dedication to success in the workplace.”
Can you discuss an instance when you collaborated with another department on a project?
Hiring panels often ask this question to assess your teamwork skills and ability to work with colleagues. When you answer, discuss a specific example that illustrates your teamwork capabilities, including a challenge you faced and a successful outcome you achieved.
Example: “I recently led a project that required me to work closely with the team leader of another department. I faced the challenge of creating a schedule, assigning roles, following up with colleagues and adjusting our plan after receiving feedback from management. Ultimately, I concluded the project by generating 15% greater revenue than planned.”
Do you have any questions for us?
This question allows you to illustrate your level of interest in the position and how much you have researched the company. Use the questions you prepared in advance, or inquire about a topic that arose earlier in the interview. Having at least two questions prepared can help show the panel your interest in the position.
Example: “Can you tell me more about the next steps you plan to take after completing the major market research project last month? I understand that this role has been involved in the project, and I am interested in learning more about how I might contribute to this position.”
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