While one-on-one interviews may seem easier to prepare for, a lot of companies are focusing more on panel interviews. Why? Because a panel interview gives your potential employer a wider perspective on you as a candidate. Your future collaborators, future boss, HR representative, and coworker in another department can all ask you questions and evaluate you based on different criteria. One may be looking for company culture fit while another is focusing more on your technical experience. Don’t let panel interviews intimidate you! Here’s how you can ace a panel interview.
1. Ask Ahead and Do Your Research: Ask your recruiter or HR point of contact who you’ll be interviewing with at least one day before the interview time. That way you can research each individual panel member either on the company’s website or LinkedIn so you can get a general idea of who they are, what their position is in the company, and put a face to a name. Doing this ahead of time will also help you keep their names straight during the panel interview.
2. Focus Some Attention on Everyone: The divide and conquer strategy is essential in a panel interview. You need to make sure you aren’t just focusing your attention and energy on the people who are responding warmly to you or asking you the most questions. Make sure you focus some attention on everyone that’s a part of the panel.
3. Ask Questions to Create a Conversational Group Banter: One great way to engage a panel of interviewers, especially those who don’t seem to have any questions to ask you, is to ask them questions. This will help you create conversational group banter and they’ll be able to easily see how you fit in to the office dynamics.
4. Anticipate Changes in Question Focus: When you’re in a panel interview the topic may change from technical experience to education history to a fun culture-fit question at the drop of a hat. It’s important to anticipate frequent changes in question focus for a panel interview so you don’t end up looking like a deer in the headlights when asked two wildly different questions in a row. Take a breath, say something along the lines of “that’s a great question” while you gather your thoughts and switch gears.
5. Pay Attention to Your Body Language and Eye Contact: One thing that you need to be aware of more in a panel interview than a one-on-one interview is your body language and your eye contact. If you sit a certain way you may seem open and engaged to one person but closed off to another. You can easily remedy this by slightly shifting towards a person when you’re speaking to them and making sure you make eye contact with everyone at least a few times.
6. Personalized Thank You to Everyone: At the end of the interview, try to thank everyone for their time individually and shake everyone’s hands. Also, you should grab contact information so you can send a thank you letter or email to each panel member after the interview. Don’t send the same, generic thank you letter to every panel member. Instead, try to personalize them based on your interactions in the interview and your knowledge of what they do at the company.
Panel interviews may seem overwhelming when you’re sitting across the table from several people who all seem to be on the same side but, remember, while they’re all on the same side they’re not against you. Panel interviews are set up to evaluate how you’d fit at the company while analyzing your experience and skills. And, now that you have this guide, you’ll be able to ace a panel interview!