6 Key Ways to Nail a Panel Job Interview
So, you scoured for jobs and have landed a panel job interview. What does that mean? It means that your interview will include multiple interviewers. This is also known as a panel. If you have not had one before, here is what you can expect.
There will be more people and therefore more questions. The concept is daunting but it is much the same as a normal one-on-one interview. There are plenty of skills you can rely on at a panel interview, but also a few more you may need to pick up.
Why a Panel Job Interview
This method of interviewing can be more time-efficient than a standard one-on-one interview. Granted, it can be more difficult to find the same time for everyone to attend. But once a time is set, a panel can very quickly deduce the compatibility of a candidate together.
A panel job interview is particularly useful for employees who need to decide on a candidate as a team. This means that the members on an interview panel may all be peers and working at the same level. Alternatively, the panel could be made up of different positions across a hierarchy. There could be the human resources manager, the hiring manager, and the direct report.
For different reasons, a panel gets put together to whittle down on a pool of candidates fast. In the end, there will be a select few or one. This process can occur over a shorter period of time than the traditional interview.
How to Prepare for a Panel Interview
What are some things you can do to prepare? First things first, follow the same steps as you would for a two-person interview. This means, researching the company and familiarising yourself with the job description. Browse the profiles of interviewers you may be interviewing with on LinkedIn. Do take a look at their social media or blog for the latest happenings and insights.
1. Learn About The Panelists
Ask who is on the panel. If you are already in contact with human resources, ask them. If you are in contact with an external contact recruiter, find out through them. Knowing the panelists names and job titles in advance will help you do your research. Go on LinkedIn and familiarise yourself with their profiles. You can also better visualise how they fit into the company and how you will relate to them as a peer or even manager. The more you know in advance, the more you will be comfortable at a panel job interview.
2. Bring Multiple Copies of Your Resume
Come prepared with a few copies of your resume. If you know how many panelists there will be in advance bring a few more. Yes, the panelist may also be prepared with a copy of their own. But there could also be someone new added last minute. Or they forgot to grab your resume from the printer. Or they accidentally spill coffee on their own copy. On the off chance that something happens you want to be ready, as this shows your level of preparation.
3. Be Interactive
Engage and interact. Verbally you can ask questions and comment throughout. This shows that you can create a conversation and go with the flow. Building rapport is key to establishing a relationship with the panel. Doing your research on the interviewers in advance means that you can find common ground. Try to weave this into your discussions with each person, where possible. Holding a dialogue together means a great interview. It creates more connection than the simple question-and-answer format.
4. Practice Body Language
This includes eye contact. Be careful not to show that you are guarded. An example of this would be crossed arms across your chest. You want to hold a fairly open stance with your arms set alongside your body. You can lay your hands on your lap. All of these show openness and a willingness to communicate. Eye contact is also extremely important. Connect with each person in the panel and of course look at the person you are talking to while they are speaking. When it comes to body language, it is also important to note any habits you may have that you might need to nip in the bud. An example of this is a jittery leg or tapping foot.
5. Take Notes
You may not have a follow-up interview if you are already attending a panel format, but take notes. You may have a goldfish memory and forget how the interview went. Or you have questions you wanted the answer to and want to jot them down. Bringing a notebook into an interview with you allows you to write down your own notes in advance. Include questions you want to ask. Then during the interview, you can refer to these when you need to, and write down answers. The top takeaway is to ensure you give 90% eye contact. Make a mental note to look up most of the time, so your head is not bogged down in paper.
6. Follow-Up Contact
Much the same as a traditional interview, before departing the room, ask what the next steps are. This is a great lead-on question to, who do you contact if you have any questions. Sometimes questions really do crop up afterward. Or you realise you forgot to ask one during the panel interview. You also have the point of contact for who to follow-up with if you do not happen to hear back. Plus, it means you can send them a post-interview thank you letter.
Treat everybody on the panel equally. Do not show more eagerness or attentiveness to one person more than the other. Simple because a senior is in the room, does not mean that you should treat anybody else in the room differently. You never know whose opinion the decision-maker values. They may ask around afterward and the person with the most to say could well be someone junior.
The Bottom Line
All-in-all, do not let being by multiple people give you the shivers. Yes, it will take more focus to talk to multiple people and show them the same level of respect. But the concept still remains the same as the one-on-one interview. You are just in a room with more people. Do not let the number or the setting throw you off guard. The above top tips will set you up for success any day you have a panel job interview. If you ensure you do your basics, you are halfway there to nailing the job interview.
Next, follow this top tip on following up to make yourself memorable.