Panel Interview Tips: Prepare for Success

Getting invited to interview for a job can feel exhilarating. After all of the resume editing and networking, you’re full of hope for your career and your bank account. But, you still have to get through the interview. And, when the big day arrives, it can be especially frightening to face a panel interview.

Panel interviews are extra intimidating because you are outnumbered. The fear dial is turned way up. But, they aren’t designed just to intimidate. Panel interviews offer employers some practical advantages. According to career coach Ellyn Enisman’s new book, “Job Interview Skills 101: The Course You Forgot to Take,” these advantages include:

Shortened hiring time. By picking one day to host interviews and having a group of candidates filter through, the hiring committee can easily meet and review a large group of interviewees in a short period of time.

A consistent experience. When more than one person from the company attends the interview, they hear the same candidate responses and are, therefore, basing their decisions to the same input. The chance of the interviewee being misunderstood is lessened.

Shared knowledge. Since each panel member has a different area of expertise and specific responsibilities in the company, the panel interview gives them the opportunity to better understand each other’s priorities and goals by hearing each other's questions.

Panel Interview Tips

It’s all fine and dandy that employers like panel interviews. But, you still need to know how to survive them. Enisman offers a long list of panel interview tips that should help to put you at ease. Here are a few:

Move with confidence. Enisman recommends that you stand tall, offer a firm handshake and make eye contact as you do. She suggests that if you know the eye color of the person whose hand you are shaking, you’ve made sufficient eye contact.

Record names. Have a pen and folio with a paper pad and copies of your resume. On the first page of the pad of paper, make a simple sketch of each panel member’s name in the order in which they are sitting in front of you. Then, make an effort to then use their names when addressing them.

Take notes. Write reminders down of the questions each panel members asks you – whether they’re interested in your strengths, your work experience or skills. These notes will make it easier for you to customize your thank you notes after the interview.

Prepare questions. In your folio, on the second page of your pad of paper, have questions ready to ask about the job, the company and any other topics you plan to cover.

Collect business cards. Be sure to get each person’s business card, as this will make sending them a thank you note much easier.

Enisman offers the final advice that a thank you should go out to every member of the panel that night, before you go to sleep. Writing an email is fine, but personalize it so that it addresses whatever topic you talked to that panel member about that day.

Still nervous about your panel interview? Here is a tip from Enisman, keep a handkerchief handy so you can dry those sweaty palms just before it’s time to shake everyone’s hand.

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