If you are the kind of person that gets nervous at the prospect of a one-on-one interview, the panel interview can be quite intimidating.
The panel – or board – interview, is when you will face three or more managers and decision-makers in the interview situation. Whether it is due to time constraints or simply the strategy of the company to bring in multiple perspectives, panel interviews are increasingly common, and the chances are that you will have to face one at some point in your career.
Now, while answering questions from a group of people simultaneously might feel to you like facing an interrogation, the good news is that there is plenty you can do proactively, to perform well in the panel interview.
Just as you would approach other piece of the recruitment puzzle, the key is to be well prepared.
Do Your Homework
If you are called to interview for a job you want, the first thing you are going to do is find out who will be asking the questions. The panel interview is no different – there are just a few more people to find out about. Ask your recruitment consultant or company contact who will be interviewing you ahead of time.
Then take the time to think about what each person might want to know. It is likely that the panel will consist of an HR manager, the person that you will report to directly, a technical specialist, or manager. It is also possible that someone from a team or business area that you will work alongside if you get the job will join the panel. Therefore, it is important to think about what each person will ask based on their job expertise.
Write down the types of interviewers you are expecting and the area of expertise. Use this document as your foundation to prepare for the panel interview.
Brainstorm Potential Questions
Once you have your list of interviewers, put yourself in the position of each person and make a list of the questions they might ask. An HR manager will want to know if you are a good fit for the company culture. They might want to know how you have handled previous workplace situations or colleagues. If you are being interviewed by a technical manager, it is likely you will have to answer technical questions, so brush up on your experience, your knowledge and rehearse your answers. A marketing or finance manager might want to know how good you are at handling budget or communicating – and thinking holistically about how your technical job impacts other teams.
Take the time now to think about how you will answer questions that come from different perspectives. Be sure to write down your potential questions and your possible answers on the interview preparation document you started.
You should also take time to write out questions that you will ask of the panelists. They want to see that you have taken initiative to get to know the company and are interested in learning more. Have a few questions in mind for you to ask these questions.
Know Your Strengths
Just as you would for a one-on-one interview, identify your areas of strength and experience that you are going to want to showcase. Use your resume as a framework and be prepared to talk at length about the points, and information you have shared here. Your interviewers are going to want to know more about who you are, what your skills are, what you have done, and how you might approach day-to-day challenges within their organization.
It will be important to think about how you want to position yourself and what areas, experience, and competencies you want to showcase during the interview. Write out your ideas and the points you want to make sure you express during the interview. Use this to practice and review before the interview.
Engage with Everyone
Yes, everyone. You already know who is going to be in the room with you, so think about how you might answer questions – and elaborate on your answers – to meet the needs and concerns of different interviewers. If one person asks you a specific question, answer it directly, but be prepared to offer something more in order to engage the perspective of the other people on the panel.
Say a technical director asks you something specific; go ahead and answer, but why not mention that you have done something or built the skills to communicate technical solutions to other teams – showcase what you have done that demonstrates value to more than one interviewer. Using the same interview preparation document, practice communicating the value to the different panelist types. For example, consider creating a table of answers for each type of panelist for each strength or skill you want to highlight.
Now, you might think that it is too much of a challenge to prepare broader answers to specific questions, especially if you are nervous or under stress. But remember this: you (too) are in control. If you take the time now, to invest in practicing for your interview, you will definitely feel and be more prepared.
You Are in Control
It is really worth stressing this point. Take your time, pace yourself. No matter how nervous you feel or how much you want the job. Remember that you too can control the tempo of the interview.
- Do not be afraid to take notes if you need to. If you have not fully understood a question, do not hesitate to stop and ask someone to repeat something or to be more specific.
- Look your interviewers in the eye (if this is the culturally appropriate norm).
- Listen carefully to what they ask.
- Think before you speak.
- If you are cut off in the middle of answer, do not feel that you cannot circle back and stress something that you think is important to share.
- Be honest about your skills and strengths – companies place high value in honesty and integrity.
Most of all, try to enjoy the process. See it as an opportunity to showcase the amazing things you are capable of contributing to the company. And no matter how stressful it feels, be sure to thank each member of the interviewing panel. You never know who or when you might meet again.