Panel interviews can be a daunting experience. In a panel interview, you will be asked questions by more than one interviewer. These are usually people within the organisation, such as the hiring manager, HR, and potential colleagues. Panel interviews are not to be confused with group interviews, where there are multiple candidates being interviewed at the same time.
Organisations use panel interviews to ensure that the best possible hiring decision is made. Interviews conducted by a single interviewer are vulnerable to biases, whereas multiple perspectives are taken into account in a panel interview. Panel interviews are also seen as more stressful, so they get to see how candidates perform under pressure. Finally, a panel interview gives the organisation an opportunity to see how you interact with a group and different personalities.
As an interviewee this means that you have multiple people to impress in a high-pressure situation. So how do you ensure that you shine in a panel interview setting? Dr Holly Andrews, Associate Professor in Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School gives her five tips for success in your first panel interview.
Prepare. All the usual advice for interviews still applies; you should research the organisation and the job role thoroughly, think about the questions that the panel are likely to ask you, prepare answers for these and have some questions ready that you would like to ask the panel. This will mean that you are walking into the panel knowledgeable, prepared and ready to tackle the questions they throw at you.
Research the panel members
When you are invited to a panel interview you will often be told who is going to sit on the panel. If you aren’t told, then ask who will be on the panel. Identifying the job roles of panel members, their backgrounds and what interests they have (networking sites like LinkedIn are great for this), will give you an idea of the perspective they will bring to the panel and the kinds of questions they may ask. For example, an HR panel member is more likely to ask you questions about your training needs whereas a technical expert is more likely to probe you on your subject knowledge.
Whilst it is important to consider what the different members of the panel may want from you, research shows that those who are authentic in interview scenarios are rated more highly than those who try to tailor their answers too much to interviewer expectations. Furthermore, if you get a job role based on inauthentic answers it is unlikely to be a good fit to you, so stay true to who you are in your answers.
Build rapport with the whole panel
Trying to build rapport with multiple people at one time can be challenging, but greeting everyone properly, including making direct eye contact, can start the process positively. Hiring panels are trying to envisage what you would be like as a member of the team, so show that would be able to work well with everyone by engaging equally with everyone on the panel, for example, glance around all the panel when you are answering a question rather than just focusing on the person who asked the question. Finish your interview by thanking everyone, making sure you acknowledge everyone you met.
Being in a panel interview is a great opportunity to observe how members of an organisation interact with one another, including how formal they are. This helps you to pitch your responses to questions, for example, deciding whether humour would be appropriate. This also gives you a good insight into the culture of the company and whether it would be a good fit for you.