Any type of job interview can be nerve-wracking. When the interview will be held in front of a panel instead of a single person, your anxiety can ratchet up even more. But whether or not you know a panel interview is coming, you can make a great impression if you follow a few simple tips.
Why Do Companies Do This?
There could be a couple of reasons why a company chooses to put prospective employees in front of a panel during the interview process.
The first is efficiency. The company may want to streamline the process, giving all of the executives a chance to evaluate the interviewee at once, rather than having them conduct interviews separately. It simply saves time.
The other reason is that companies want to put interviewees to a test, placing them in an uncomfortable — possibly even intimidating — environment. That will give executives an idea of how the candidate will perform under stress.
In some instances, though, a panel interview is necessary because it simulates the requirements of the job. A salesperson, for example, will often need to make a pitch to a group of people. Instead of trying to sell a product, the interviewee will be selling his or her qualifications for the job.
You should prepare yourself for several different types of potential interviews. You might be talking to a single person, or two or three people. You might have to stand up in front of a group of people.
If you find yourself in a panel interview, give yourself a pat on the back. If you were not a strong candidate, the company would not waste time gathering executives to talk to you. Realizing that you’ve made it further than most candidates should help ease some anxiety.
Actually, preparing for a panel interview has a lot in common with preparing for a one-on-one interview. You should research the company as thoroughly as you can. Make sure you understand every detail of the job posting, and look for questions that are commonly asked during interviews. Look for not only general questions, but industry-specific questions as well.
You will want to be ready to talk about your career goals, your previous experience and any major accomplishments you have achieved. This will be the case no matter what type of interview you have. Make sure you have plenty of copies of your resume on hand.
During the Interview
Let’s say you find yourself in front of an imposing group of professionals. They hold your future in their hands. So what? If you know how to approach the room, you will be ahead of the game and ready to make a positive impression.
First, take the time to introduce yourself to the panel before the interview starts. Walk up to each member and shake his or her hand. It might be helpful to ask for business cards that you can then place in front of you as an easy guide to keep track of who is talking to you. This will also help you address panel members directly.
Panel interviews take patience. Each person on the panel might be there to ask a specific question. You might also encounter a situation where several panel members ask similar questions. Whatever you do, stay poised and calm. Answer the questions as thoughtfully and precisely as you can, but use different phrases to get the same point across.
Eye contact is also key. Look directly at the panel member who is asking a question. Then gradually look at the other panel members as you’re wrapping up the answer. That will leave a great impression by making each interviewer feel that he or she is involved in the conversation.
It is also important to connect with each panel member during the interview. For example, one might ask you what kind of experience you have working on a specific type of project. Then another might ask about the problems you faced when working on that project. Address both panel members when providing your answer to the second question.
What NOT to Do
The last thing you want to do is show any frustration or be defensive with your answers. You might receive some odd questions, or someone might ask about why you are looking for a new job. Be truthful at all times, and be open to any questions they might ask.
Also, remember the importance of body language. Stand up straight and smile. Take interest in everything that each panel member has to say. Remember to maintain eye contact.
After the Interview
Once the interview is over, thank each panel member for taking the time to get to know you and what you have to offer. Sending thank-you notes afterward may seem old-fashioned, but it really helps make a lasting impression. Jot down notes during the interview so you can include a detailed reference in your thank-you note.
The pressure will be on during a panel interview, of course. But if you’ve done your homework, you will be ready to handle whatever comes your way.
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