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Interviewing can be stressful on its own but when you add a panel interview into the mix that could send your nerves into overdrive. Don’t worry, with preparation, panel interviews can actually be a great experience. Let’s take an inside look of what to expect, and how to ace a panel interview.
What is a panel interview?
A panel interview is an interview with a job candidate and two or more interviewers. There might be a few reasons why a company chooses a panel interview over a one-on-one style.
Their hiring policy is to always have someone in HR attend the interview with a hiring manager.
The hiring manager wants feedback from their colleagues on candidates to help them make the right decision.
Having a diverse panel can help check unconscious bias.
The hiring manager is an executive and wants their team’s buy-in before they do a one-on-one interview.
At the end of the day, the goal of a panel interview is to receive input from multiple people to get consensus on whether the candidate is the right for the job. There is also the time-saving advantage for everyone—doubling up on interviewers means less time spent in actual interviews.
How to nail a panel interview
Do your homework
Research everyone that you will be interviewing with. If the person setting up the panel interview did not mention who would be joining, be sure to ask who will be attending.
Look the panel up on the company website and on LinkedIn to see if they pop up on a Google search. The more info you have to use in your interview, the better.
Take a look at their roles and responsibilities and consider how their position might interact with the job you’re interviewing for. Be sure to dig deep and also check out the interests and articles they may be sharing on LinkedIn. This extra step can help you develop a deeper connection with the people you are interviewing with.
For example, I was once in a panel interview where I asked one interviewer about her transition from the armed forces to privacy law and what that was like for her. Asking that question really opened her up and the rest of the panel was interested in hearing her answer to learn more about their colleague.
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Be able to speak macro and micro
One of the trickier parts of a panel interview is keeping the whole group engaged, especially if they work in different departments. While you are definitely going to want to get into the weeds on specific questions, ideally you should be able to share your answers at a high level and then get down to the details with the interviewer who asked the question.
A good formula for this is giving a brief answer to the question and then diving in deeper by explaining with examples or more details.
Yes, I have experience working with that program. The way I used it in my last position was by…
Brush up on the types of questions you’ll be asked
Just like in a one-on-one interview, you can expect behavioral, situational and skills-based interview questions during a panel interview. But unlike in a one-on-one interview, you get to hear different perspectives and see how the panelists communicate with one another.
If the panel is interdepartmental, be prepared to answer questions about how you work on a team. Use examples of how you have worked collaboratively in the past and how you would work on teams in future situations.
Ask the right questions
A great two-pronged approach to asking questions on the interview is, first, having one question that you ask every person on the panel to see how they answer. People are typically interested in hearing how a colleague would answer a question differently than they would and this is a great way to get the whole group engaged.
An example question I suggest my clients use is: What do you find most challenging about working here and what makes you happy about working here?
Part two is to ask at least two specific questions for every individual on the panel tailored to their role. For example, you may want to ask the marketing director on the panel questions about their current social media strategy, and then later ask the sales manager about their current sales processes. Everyone should feel seen and like their input matters to you.
Follow up with everyone
Even if only one interviewer on the panel is the decision-maker, it’s important to make everyone feel valued by sending each of them a thank-you email. It’s awkward being the one interviewer left out of that follow-up, so be sure to confirm everyone’s contact information at the end of the interview.
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