A panel interview is a hiring process where you talk to multiple interviewers. Each interviewer asks you different questions, and the process usually lasts longer than a regular, one-on-one interview.
Those asking the questions could be professional recruiters or employees from different departments within the organisation. Candidates can expect to undergo an intensive interview process with this interview format. There are several steps, however, that you can take to improve your chances of success.
Many candidates find this interview format particularly intimidating, but with the tips below, group interviews can be a great way to show off your best skills.
1. Note who you are talking to
If you know who will be interviewing you, be sure to do your research on them before your interview. Know their names and job titles. Study key details such as their achievements and important initiatives within the company.
Panels often consist of individuals who will work with you in separate but connected processes, so make sure you enable them to envisage what it will be like to work with you in the future. Use follow-up questions to highlight your understanding.
During the entire panel interview, address each panel member by name to show you are invested in the hiring process. However, you may not always know who will interview you on the panel.
And in many instances, you may not even know you would be facing a panel of interviewers. If that is the case for you, fret not. Maintain eye contact and stay confident.
2. Bring materials for everyone
Ensure you have plenty of business cards and copies of your resumes available. Bring extra copies! Be prepared for any questions or comments from the panel members.
You may be asked to supply samples of your work during the panel interview process. Remember that this is your chance to shine, so do not succumb to the temptation of false modesty. Be prepared for follow-up questions too.
3. Engage everyone on the interview panel
Build rapport with multiple interviewers as well as you can. During a panel interview, talk with each panel member individually, as there will not be just one hiring manager to impress.
When talking with only one panel member, look at them while speaking. Also, when answering general questions, pay close attention to how much time you spend talking about yourself.
4. Turn the job interview into a conversation
Turn the panel interview into a conversation by referring to previous interview questions. Pay attention to non-verbal clues and face all the panel members when speaking.
It is a good idea to adapt your attitude as a job candidate as you go along, and if possible, combine the art of friendly conversation with just the right amount of professionalism. Watch your body language carefully and you will stand out from multiple candidates.
5. Get ready for plenty of questions
Panel interviews are fast-paced and tend to include more questions. Prepare for a panel interview format by having several answers to any question that might be asked. Have examples ready for when an interviewer asks a more detailed question.
Practising beforehand will help you prepare for just about everything that comes your way. There is no specific common interview question to practice for - there are lots. Be as ready as you can for all of them.
6. Always ask questions
Having questions to ask will show that you have done your homework and, crucially, that you are very interested in the role.
There are plenty of questions that could do this for you, such as those relating to the company culture and how you might be able to progress along a successful and rewarding career path. The more you showcase yourself in a panel job interview, the higher your chances of landing your dream job.
7. Show that you are a team player
Panel-based job interviews are often used to evaluate candidates' abilities to work well with others. They represent a golden opportunity for you to showcase your team player credentials.
Give examples of past accomplishments, and if the panel is from a cross-section of departments such as sales, human resources, and production, try to make those examples as sector-specific as possible. Remember, you are trying to sell yourself at every moment of the process.
8. Prepare, prepare, prepare for panel interviews
Prepare by reviewing the job posting, preparing answers to common interview questions, and practising answers for career-specific questions. Be prepared to discuss your significant accomplishments and explain every job on your resume.
Successful interviews are often built primarily on rapport. Bear in mind that when the interview is over, all the panel members could decide on your future by vote. Therefore, include everyone equally in your questions and answers.
9. Don't get the interviewers mixed up
It is easy to lose concentration at crucial moments when the pressure is on, so do all you can to remain unflustered. If the interviewers' business cards were given to you at introductions, arrange them in front of you in the order the panel members are sitting. If you cannot do that or are not offered their cards, jot down their names and positions in the order they are seated.
10. Become the sought-after candidate
When applying for jobs, it's important to make sure that you demonstrate your competencies. You need to showcase your skills as well as your ability to work within a team.
Use stories from your past experiences to prove your expertise. Before the interview, ask yourself exactly what type of person they are looking for. Then, in short, become that person. Remember, communication skills are always as important, if not more so than technical skills. This is especially true in group dynamics.
If you've managed to get through to the panel interview stage, you are already a credible candidate, but you will be up against other job candidates with a similar standing.
Positivity will be key to your quest; many will see this process as a somewhat brutal experience, but if you can face it with positivity and are seen to do just that, you could be a step ahead of the rest already.
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