Panel Interview Tips
Different companies have differing approach to personnel sourcing. It then comes as no surprise that even formats in conducting job interviews may differ from one another. With the right amount of prep work and a solid communication plan, you'll be able to increase your chances for a successful interview.
How are panel interviews conducted?
A panel interview involves being interviewed by several people at one time whether live, via Skype or via a conference call.
Why do companies choose this interview format?
Some companies go for the panel interview option when there are various levels of management involved in determining whether a candidate is a fit for a job opening. As such, the company wants to get as much of the decision makers to weigh in before selecting a new member of their team as they implement a more rigorous ways to screen job seekers and onboard the best talent.
Another reason is that the company puts in an added premium to collaborative decision-making and team work in all areas including the hiring process.
Other times, panel interviews speed up the hiring process because it does away with the need to conduct subsequent interviews.
In some cases, the whole idea of a panel interview is to put an interviewee under more pressure compared with a typical one-to-one interview. The format is considered to be an effective way to determine how well the candidate can take on stressful situations and how the candidate interacts with a diverse range of individuals.
As daunting as these may seem, there are a lot of ways for candidates to shine in this situation. Consider a few tips that up your chances of success in a panel interview setting:
RESEARCH & PREPARE
On the Company
A better understanding of the structure of the company and how they fit within its structure will help make you feel more confident in facing your interviewers. Work on gaining as much knowledge of the job role, the company, its products and services. Better yet, check out competitors as well as how is viewed within its sector or industry.
Prepare Extra Copies of Your Resume
Remember our tip on Basic Job Interview Guide? A panel interview is a best example of why you should always have extra copies of your resume and references when you go for an interview. Not only will it make you appear prepared and organized, it will allow each member of the panel an opportunity to review your credentials.
One advantage of this format is that there is usually only one job interview needed before a company determines whether or not you will be accepted for the position. That having been said, it is important to come prepared for this one shot at answering questions you may be asked.
Revisit your resume is there a gap in your employment that needs explaining? And, rehearse the answers to any difficult questions like this.
Rehearse & Have Stories Ready
Ask how long the interview will be and who will be on the panel in order to better orient your responses to the interview questions. Expect to be asked to give previous experience that elaborate on your skills or experience. Be ready with three to five success stories to this end and make them results-focused. Think about how your individual actions and approach led to a positive result.
Try To Know Who Your Interviewers Are
If you had enough lead time to prepare for a panel interview, try to get as much information on your interviewers, as well as their department or unit. Take note of each panel member's name when you meet them so you can address them personally during the panel interview. Anticipate that each member of the panel comes to the interview with their own agenda.
Remember Your Interviewers' Names
Approach your interviewers and introduce yourself while shaking his or her hand. Ask for a business card from everyone, so you can place these in front of you in the order in which they're sitting. If they don't have business cards with them, write down their names on a piece of paper (in the order in which they're sitting) and have this in front of you during the interview. That way, you'll know whom you're addressing as you answer questions.
Connect With Your Interviewers
I can be more difficult to build up a rapport with a group of people and they can be more formal in style.
A usual challenge to candidates in a job interview like this is determining to address when you are asked a question. A good rule to follow is to first direct your answer primarily to the person who asked it then slowly working your way to addressing the whole panel. But, even if you do this, you are still expected to return to the questioner regardless of the person's "rank" in the organization.
Maintain Good Eye Contact
When the question posed is one that allows you a bit more time with your response, it also is recommended that when you look around at all those who make up the interview panel you could slant your answers to highlight what you feel will be most noteworthy for that person. Note too that since panel interviews tend to be indicative of a premium and culture of teamwork and cooperation answers that draw focus on you being a "team player" are always a good way to go.
In line with this tag team interview approach, it pays to be ready for a "good cop/bad cop" interview while keeping in mind that your interviewers are still working together toward the same end.
Stay Focused & Relaxed
Be optimistic! However, watch that you don't come across too confident or over presumptuous. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. so wear a smile, relax and consider the tone and style in which you engage with the panel.
Saying Thank You and Following Up
Shake hands with each interview panel member and thank them at the end of the interview.
If you managed to secure your interviewers' contact details, it means you should send a personalized thank you note to each member of the interview panel. You can also send a thank-you email to your primary or HR contact but be sure to mention the other people in the group and ask your primary contact to extend your thanks to each of them.
You may even include citing a particular point to comment on for each person who was in the panel. It certainly makes a great follow-up to whatever good impression you created in your interview (Ex: I was very exciting to hear Mr. Smith providing a preview of the company's expansion plans. Sarah was extremely informative regarding the company's plan to upgrade its facilities.)
Finally, remember that many others have survived panel interviews in one piece. With positive attitude and practice then you should have nothing to worry about.