Most people are intimidated by one-on-one interviews, so you can imagine the pressure when you’re facing a group of interviewers! Many companies are using panel interviews to evaluate candidates at all stages of the hiring process, both to be efficient with their time and to see how candidates perform in a pressure situations. Though many job seekers dread them, these types of meetings offer the opportunity to meet and impress people in all areas of the company. These connections increase the likelihood of you being hired and helps you be successful as you assume your new role! However, as they are often called “firing-squad interviews”, being invited to a panel interview requires a bit of additional research and preparation in order to put your best foot forward.
Preparation is the Key to Success
Though this is true for any interview, preparation is absolutely crucial for a panel interview. Take the time to research each member of the panel so that you understand their role in the company as well as each one’s unique agenda or interests. For example, the representative from the sales department may have a completely different goal and requirement than someone from finance. It’s appropriate for you to ask for the names and titles of those interviewing you before the meeting so that you can adequately prepare.
Once you have an understanding of who you’ll be speaking with, review your notes from previous conversations to apply the knowledge you’ve learned of the company itself. This is your opportunity to show how well you would fit in with the team and the impact that you could make in regards to their goals. Position yourself to appeal to each interviewer and the overall objectives of the company.
Don’t Succumb to Rapid Fire Questioning
Remember, you are not on trial here. Take your time in answering questions and control the pace of the conversation as much as you can. I recommend that my clients come to the interview with stories to tell so that they can link questions to longer stories that share their experience and successes. However, understand that each person in the interview has particular questions that they want answered, so be aware of any time constraints and do your best to address each one.
Interviewers (as most people) are often bolder in group settings than they might be one-on-one. Don’t be thrown off by tough or direct questions about your experience. Often, they are more focused on how you respond to pressure situations than your actual answer. That being said, it helps to prepare for any “zingers” that might come your way.
Treat Everyone Equally
It can be tempting to cling to the most senior person in the room or the one that seems to like you the most, but make sure to involve everyone in the conversation equally. When you enter the room, introduce yourself to each person. Use their names in conversation. Have questions for a few different members of the panel prepared. Follow up with each of them.
While it may seem prudent to converse most with the one you’re most comfortable with, winning over the more negative personality will ultimately provide more support when they are discussing your interview after the fact.
Practice Makes Perfect
The skills necessary for acing a panel interview are not often utilized in our everyday life, so make sure you warm them up before your meeting! Prepare a list of questions that each interviewer is likely to ask (or download my ready-made list here) and have your friends or family members act as the panel in a mock interview setting. This will allow you to practice making eye contact with everyone, engaging those that are less interested, and thinking on your feet. It will also ease your anxiety when walking into the room on the big day.
Panel interviews are nothing to dread if you’re prepared and polished. In fact, in many cases, reaching the panel interview stage is a positive sign and an opportunity for you to seal the deal! Confidence is the ultimate equalizer in panel interview settings, so do your research to make sure you’re prepped and ready.
Still a little nervous? Download my Ace the Interview Guide here.