How to Ace a Panel Interview

The luxury of multiple interviews at different times and locations may be severely complicated for some firms. Especially if the position the firm is trying to fill, the candidate is required to wear  “multiple hats”. Queue the Panel Interview style.

What is a Panel Interview? “The term panel interview is used to describe a technique that allows several members of a hiring company to interview a job candidate at the same time.” This is a terrific way to allow leaders of a firm to hear the exact same questions AND the responses of the candidates to those questions simultaneously. Allowing collaboration throughout a leadership team when choosing the best candidate. This is true Team-work in candidate selection.

While your first reaction might be to stress over this interviewing method… there’s no need to worry. Panel interviews may require more thorough preparation but they can certainly be to your benefit as well. Here’s some tips to prepare and make the most of this increasingly popular interview method.

  • Respond to the interview phone call/email request promptly. You’re interviewing with several leadership or key people of the firm and their schedules are full (That’s why you’re being interviewed) Also, it can take time and sometimes great organization skills to coordinate the panel interview. Let the organizer know you recognize and appreciate their efforts by doing your best to accommodate their time/date request.
  • Make sure you research the company and, if possible, each person who will be interviewing you as well as their role within company. Include research on projects they may be responsible for. This will take some memorization on your part, but it will serve you well answering each question with the understanding of who the individual asking is and their mindset. (Tip: Take a small notebook to jot down the interviewers names and a memory jog tool to allow you to remember who you are addressing and their role.)
  • A little research will go a LONG WAY. Find out as much as you can about the job description, the expectations of others who hold similar roles within the company and you’ll feel better prepared to answer the questions that the panel will mostly ask.
  • Having enough copies of your resume and portfolio printed in advance for each interviewer is a terrific way to show you are thoroughly prepared. You can also try doing a little research on the technology available in the meeting room that will save a lot of headache.  Ask the interview coordinator about any accommodations or tools available. Ex: Can you bring a USB to show your portfolio on a screen?
  • As always, prepare your examples, stories of positive project success, and your questions ahead of time. You may want to modify which of the panel members you ask your questions. Thinking about these questions ahead of time means you can focus on WHO to ask and not WHAT to ask.
  • Thank each of the panel interviewers before leaving the room. Don’t leave anyone out. All of the interview panel members have taken time from their busy schedules to conduct your interview, let them know you appreciate it.

In the Interview: When you first look at the style of the Panel interview it might seem imposing, almost like a firing squad. Me against all of them? It may appear that way at first, but in reality it is a way you can really stand out even more amongst other candidates! How? Here are several ways.

  • Address everyone (try and remember to use their names) when you are talking to them and answering the questions, not just the person who asked the question. You want each of them to take away how you are a potential fit in their department or project.
  • Think of this time as a presentation where you get to PRESENT your work rather than simply review of your portfolio. Your work shows your skills and experience, but even the best portfolio won’t speak for itself. Practicing your presentation in advance is a great way to find the edge you are looking for. Your presentation should demonstrate to the interviewing panel your skill set and significant projects.
  • Posture matters. Your chair may be in front of them or it might be part of a circle. Regardless of how the seating is arranged, don’t hunch or wrap your arms around your body. Let them know you are confident and you “belong” there. Sit up and keep your chin level. SMILE! :)
  • Take your time. Don’t get flustered with the questioning interviewers. They are trying to get to know you just as you should try to get to know them. Don’t rush through the presentation and remember to breathe taking your time to focus when answering each question. Focus on the question asked while allowing yourself to answer as if ALL of them had asked it. Going at a paced speed will show the interviewing panel members you are able to handle pressure and will give them a feel for how you will be with your clients questions.
  • Before you leave try to get the business card of each of the panel members.

The Follow-Up: Just like doing your research ahead of time is crucial, following up on the panel interview is also! Don’t overlook it.

  • Send a thank-you note or email to the person who coordinated and invited you to the interview.
  • If one of your interviewers expressed interest in a specific project, or more examples of your work, send it to them directly. The fact that you remembered who asked and what they were wanting shows you are able to stay focused and organized.

Do all of the above and you’re sure to impress the interviewing panel.

Good luck in your interview!