How to Ace your Panel Interview : 7 Easy-to-Follow Survival Tips

By Ash Rao - Career Coach /Corp Recruiter - Dallas

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Photo by Eric McCandless /Getty Images

Panel Interview, as the name suggests refers to a formal interview setting wherein the job applicant is interviewed by a group of two or more interviewers.

Panel Interviews are increasingly becoming common as companies tend to streamline the hiring process to save time and cost.  It also gives the company an opportunity to observe a potential hire in a group setting, how they pitch their experience effectively and interact with a Panel of multiple people with varying personality/communication styles and yet make a positive impression with each Panel member.  Having a panel interview will enable the hiring manager to get a quick consensus from various responsible parties and hence the decision-making process is faster.

 If unprepared, this type of interview can easily be a very intimidating atmosphere and can be a stressful experience. However, there are many positives to this kind of interview. As a candidate, this is a great opportunity for you to build rapport with key people in the company at the same time. This kind of interview will also provide a closer insight into how the company operates which in turn will help in deciding about whether or not to take up the job when offered!

So even though it may seem like a daunting experience, to face a group of key people and having to prove your expertise to all of them at once, with just the right mindset, thorough preparation and diligently following the survival tips and strategies mentioned below, you will surely be able to ace your Panel interview!

Get to know your Panel ahead of Time

It is usually exciting and at the same time nerve-wracking to hear that you have been invited to attend a Panel Interview. In most cases, it is the last round of the process which is exciting as it is just a step away from your desired job! But meeting not one but a group of hiring decision makers at the same time and having to impress all of them is definitely stressful. To alleviate the stress and pressure, it is advised to know the Panel members before the interview. So, when the excited HR/recruiter invites you for Panel interview, get as many details as you can and write the names down. Search on Google, look them up on LinkedIn to learn more about their responsibilities and research the company website to understand the reporting structure of the organization, job responsibilities, career progression overall.

In a perfect world, you will meet exactly same Panel members whom you have already researched about based on the HR given info, but given that changing schedules/last minute meetings and travel schedules of top executives, there is always a chance you will meet new people who are back up interviewers. In such a situation, it is best to take notes as soon as they introduce themselves rather than relying on your memory. Make sure to pay attention and jot down the seating chart along with names and roles of panelists.

Doing this will help you in 3 ways –

  • You will be able to tailor your response to specific interviewer
  • You will be able to personalize your answer
  • You will not mess up names and will be able to write out separate customized Thank you notes after the interview!

Research, Prepare and Engage

Once you have the details of the Panel members who will be interviewing you, research and equip yourself with as much information possible about the company, organization structure, and functional responsibilities of the job. Be thorough with your resume; prepare to articulate your experience, skills, contribution to projects and success stories.

Always be prepared with your Elevator Pitch – a short explanation of who you are what you do and how you can add value to the company or the job you are interviewing for. This pitch should be powerful and concise and should provide instant value to your listener, which in this case are your Panel members. It should not be a recital of your life history. Keep it short and relevant! If you need help in crafting a perfect pitch, this article may help!

On a personal note, I highly recommend you to follow Shark Tank – the reality show mainly for budding entrepreneurs to showcase their product ideas also provides some valuable tips on how to deliver your best pitch effectively! 

Panel Interviews are generally comprised of behavior-oriented questions and will be based on assessing your conflict handling, problem solving and leadership abilities.  It would be best to prepare beforehand on some of the classic behavioral related questions  and also prepare to provide examples of your own work experience wherein you have displayed these skills. This preparation will help you articulate your experience well and you will be able to demonstrate how you can translate those skills to your new role.

Typically a Panel Interview is comprised of department heads from multiple areas across a company along with possible peers or team members. There is a possibility that you might need to repeat your responses to different interviewers, however, make sure you tailor your response each time according to each interviewer and their area of interest. For example if you are interviewing for a Project Manager role, you will emphasize on kind of project, technologies used, results achieved upon project completion to the manager whom you will be reporting to, however you will emphasize on cost reduction, budget allocation of the project if you are addressing to the finance manager in the panel and you will highlight about manpower, teamwork, resource allocation and related tasks if you are addressing your response to the HR Manager. Use your judgment and customize your answer as per your interviewer!

Mind your Body Language

Hand shake

 

It goes without saying that you need to choose your words wisely and answer responsibly during your interview. But along with your verbal communication, your body language also plays an equally important role in improving your communication and making an impact on the decision makers.

In a Panel Interview, you may feel like you are under the microscope, but do not ever let those nerves take over.  Do not hunch over your chair, wrap your arms around your body or bounce nervously as your potential employer will perceive that as not engaged and you will hurt your chances.

 Make sure you remain calm even if the interview heats up. Body Language has a significant influence on how people perceive you and make that count! It is important to portray confidence physically by having proper posture, firm handshake, maintain good eye contact and don’t forget to smile!

Pace your Answers

Panel Interviews are generally compared to the experience of being in front of a “Firing Squad” where there is a volley of questions thrown at you by different key people! It is normal to feel nervous and uncomfortable but don’t let that take over your interview.

The best way to tackle this kind of interview is to address one question and one interviewer at a time and pace your response. Do not jump to answer another interviewer leaving the previous answer incomplete. Move on only after you have completed your response to the previous question and if you need a question to be repeated, ask upfront for clarification.  

In case if a Panelist cuts you off by asking another question, make sure you assess the situation quickly and say you want to complete your final thoughts with regards to the previous question and that you will be happy to address this one soon after. Wrap up your previous answer quickly and move on to next!

Do not feel overwhelmed when facing a bunch of questions all at the same time; do not rush your answers. Think, formulate your response accurately and keep your answers brief and to the point. Remember the Panelists are not judging your speed of tackling questions but rather your depth of knowledge in each area as per the requirements of the position.

Ask Relevant Questions

Typically, at the end of Panel Interview, you are provided with an opportunity to ask any questions you have to the Panel. Don’t wing this. If you play nice and stammer you are good, not only will the Panel be disappointed by your lack of interest, it will be a missed opportunity for you as well. Do NOT leave the interview room without asking meaningful questions. Needless to say, these questions need to be job-related and not about a favorite sports team or Netflix shows.

If you are wondering what questions to ask, here are some pointers that work in most scenarios.

"Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful or questions I can answer?"

 "Can you tell me what you love the most about working here?"

"Can you tell me more about the team I am working with? Any information that will help me transition more easily into the new job?"

“Can you tell me about the Performance review process? How often is it done and what to expect during a performance review?”

“Can you walk me through a typical day at your company?”

Expect a Zinger

And now, for the fun part! Typically, in a group setting, interviewers tend to feel overly comfortable and you can expect curveball questions thrown at you which seem irrelevant and not related the job!

Since Panel Interviews tend to be more behavior –oriented when compared to other interviews, these zinger questions are mainly to understand the way you think and behave in certain situations which can provide the Panelists more insight into your conflict handling and problem-solving abilities in a stressful situation.

Zinger questions can come from nowhere, and there will not be any right or wrong answer. Just use your judgment and presence of mind and do not worry about getting it right!

Even though it is not possible to prepare beforehand for these bizarre questions, however, Glassdoor has compiled the latest list of toughest oddball questions which is definitely worth a read! you can review them HERE!

So what do you do when you see a penguin in your freezer? Stay calm, call animal control first, but don’t forget to take a pic otherwise no one will believe you!

Power of Gratitude

Thank you

Do not underestimate power of simple Thank you!

As you wrap up your interview, make sure to collect business cards and thank each panelist individually. Collecting business cards will help you spell names accurately and also write a personalized Thank-You note expressing interest in the opportunity and appreciation for their time. This is also a great way to address any questions or provide additional information that might be helpful in their decision-making process.

Putting it All Together

In Summary, Panel Interviews should not be something to dread but viewed more as a one-time opportunity to establish rapport with multiple key people in the company quickly and make a favorable impression.

With the right kind of preparation, sufficient practice, you will be able to transform your Panel Interview into a positive rewarding experience and get closer to securing that Dream Job Offer!

Panel Interview is a 2-way street- It is not only an opportunity for the hiring managers

and peers to get to know you,

It is also an opportunity for you to take a closer look at how the company works, the kind of

people you will be working with and decide if it is the right job for you!

So, the next time you are about to enter a room to face the Panel, remember…this time it is actually all about YOU, it is your time to be in the limelight! Shine on!

 

 About the Author:

Author Pic

Ash Rao, Certified Career Coach/Corporate Recruiter/Blogger

I help people achieve better careers through targeted coaching on job search strategies, interview techniques, resume writing and building an effective LinkedIn presence.

You can connect with me on LinkedIN and Follow on Twitter Here!

 

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