How To: Prepare for a Panel Interview


StopwatchToday, there are many different ways companies interview potential candidates. Some stick to a phone screen before the initial interview while others prefer Skype interviews right off the bat. Though you don’t know what the interview process will be like before it begins (and every  company is different), it is important to prepare for every situation, including a panel interview. Panel interviews can include a number of different people, from HR reps to technical experts, managers and even potential coworkers. A panel interview can seem daunting, but maintaining a calm and focused attitude is key in making the right impression. Preparation is critical, and following these steps will allow you stay confident when enduring a panel interview:

Research and Preparation

The first thing you want to do is check out the company’s website. Spend time to read through the company’s objectives. Find out who their customers are and know their competitors. Become an expert on the company you are interviewing with. Also, if you know prior to the interview which company representatives you will be meeting with, research their job and responsibilities at the organization.

Once you have completed company and interviewer research, it’s time to prepare for the questions. In a panel interview, you will have to handle multiple people speaking with you at one time, possibly firing off questions right after another. To be ready for this situation, it is vital to practice before you go on-site. Remember, each panel member will approach the interview from his or her own viewpoint. The panelists will have different roles to play during the interview. Often HR will assess if you’re good fit within the company culture. The technical experts will evaluate your technological skills and your ability to perform the duties necessary to complete the job. Managers will question your drive and determination to perform the job to the top of your abilities, and will want to discuss your career history. Coworkers may ask about your work style and personality.

Be prepared for the panel’s questions

When preparing your answers for job interview questions, remember to highlight your full range of abilities, technical skills, and knowledge to meet the expectations of each interviewer. Establishing an understanding of general interview questions can drastically help you prepare. Usually these questions below are asked, and having premeditated answers to these below will boost your confidence.

Each panelist will ask their own questions and will often ask you to elaborate on any answers. Avoid yes/no answers; make sure you fully answer each question, while making eye contact to each panelist. They might take notes during the interview, so don’t get flustered with what they are writing. Stay focused on successfully answering each question, and provide informative answers. Bring a copy of your resume for each panelist, and dress for success!

Be sure to prepare for these common interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • How would a colleague describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
  • What is your biggest strength?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Imagine that you are introducing a new policy to your co-workers or employees, and you are facing opposition. How would you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you were working on a team project and there was a conflict in the group. How did you handle the situation?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to explain a complex issue to someone who was unfamiliar with the topic.

Make a positive first impression

When you arrive on-site for your interview it is very important to maintain a poised attitude. It is critical when introduced to make eye contact with each panel member, shake hands firmly and greet them using their names. Pause with each handshake and try not to rush through it, as it can give the impression of tenseness. When you sit down in your panel interview, take out your pen and paper and ask if they mind if you make some notes during the interview and ask appropriate questions. It is a challenge to build rapport with each panel member during the interview process so your introductions are paramount to creating the right positive first impression. The way you meet and interact with your panel will have impact on the rest of the interview. Ensure you consider the perspective of the panelist who asks the question when delivering your interview answer. This is one of the reasons it is essential to do your background research beforehand.

Be aware of body language

Body language is extremely important to consider when interviewing. Once you sit down for the interview, make sure to have great posture, allow yourself to be comfortable for the interview and maintain a professional image.  Keep your hands folded in front of you when you aren’t taking notes; too much fidgeting can come off unprofessional. Try not to touch your face or hair and don’t have your arms crossed as it can come off standoffish. Make sure to keep your feet and legs steady during the interview, as shaking of the legs can be perceived has nervous or anxious. Often a candidate is evaluated not only by his/her ability to answer questions, but also by the way he/she interacts during the interview.

Keep a steady flow

Always interact with the interviewer as an equal, not a subordinate, despite their job title. Ensure that your voice tone is not apologetic or defensive. Generally it is advisable not to show too much or too strong emotion during your job interview. Smile and nod at appropriate times but don’t overdo it. Avoid erupting into laughter on your own; laughing along with the interviewer is far more acceptable and helps to generate a feeling of acceptance.

As the interview continues, stay calm, poised, and highly interested. Develop a relationship with the panelists and try to better understand their personality. Attempt to relate to each panelist and be sure to respect the company values and culture while answering questions. As the interview comes to a close, thank each participant and act gracious for spending his or her time interviewing you. Sending a panel interview thank you letter or email is also advisable.

In summary, preparing for your panel job interview includes not only knowing what to say, but how to say it. The best way to be aware of your interview tendencies and the way you are coming across is to practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. This way you can be confident that you are sending the right message in your job interview. By following these guidelines, you can properly prepare for the intimidating panel interview and hopefully a stellar result will follow.

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