For many of us, hearing that we are facing a panel interview can immediately fill us with fear, dread and trepidation. For some reason, facing a group of people is so much more daunting than facing one interviewer on their own. However, like all interviews, with the right preparation and mindset, there should be absolutely no reason why this need be the case. To help alleviate those fears and improve your performance, we have put together our Top Tips for Panel Interviews.
Prepare In Advance
As soon as you are notified that you will be interviewed by a panel, try and establish who they are. Ask the HR Manager, the recruiter if they can advise you who will be on the panel. In most organisations, the panel will consist of at least 3 people, generally including a HR Representative, a Line Manager and perhaps even a potential team colleague. It can be worthwhile researching who the interviewers are in advance simply by using google, the company website, industry publications or even Linkedin or other social media sites. Getting some background knowledge in advance about the people you are meeting will actually help to boost your confidence and minimise the “fear of the unknown” element of the interview.
As soon as you walk through the door, like it or not, all eyes will be upon you. And each member of the panel will be immediately making up their initial first impressions of you. In order to make sure it is a positive one, you should ensure that you enter the room confidently, that you make eye contact and shake hands firmly with each of the panelists and that you remember standard interview etiquette, waiting until you are advised to sit down etc. Your aim is to establish and build a rapport with each of the interviewers.
Eye Contact and Body Language
The format of panel interviews can vary. Some will have a lead interviewer who asks most of the questions, some will give each panelist an equal number of questions whilst others will have questioning panelists and others who are simply there in an observational capacity.
No matter what the format, the fact is you should always make eye contact with each of the interviewers, whether they ask you a question or not. Obviously most of your focus should be on the person who asked the question, but the other panelists should be included too, even just with a few glances. Likewise, be mindful of your body language. Do not turn away in the direction of the person questioning you at that point. Even if there are panelists who remain silent, make sure you have not subconsciously angled yourself away from them.
Ignore the Distractions
It is commonplace in a Panel Interview for at least one of the panelists to be a note taker. In fact at times, several of them may do this. Don’t let yourself get distracted by someone scribbling notes and saying nothing. Likewise do not be alarmed if an interviewer breaks eye contact with you in order to write down some notes. This is common practice and you should not let it unnerve you.
The Interview Itself
Although there are more people present, the actual interview itself and the questions you are asked and how you answer them is no different to a normal one on one interview. Your interview preparation should therefore be exactly the same. Check out some of our our previous posts here , here and here for some more tips and guidance.
When the interview has come to a close, much as you may want to get out of that room as quickly as possible, it is important to again remember your manners. Politely thank and shake hands with each one of the interviewers. If you know and can remember their names, then of course you should use them.
Overall, the only real difference with a panel interview is that you have a few more people to impress. You need to prove you are the right candidate for the job in exactly the same way, no matter how many people are at the other side of that table!
Remember, if you have any other tips for panel interviews, that you feel should be shared, then please let us know via the Comments section below.