If you get nervous before a classic one-on-one interview, you can imagine how nerve-wrecking it can be to mentally prepare for a panel interview.
It’s kind of like going on multiple speed dates. All at once. With people who get to decide if you get your dream job or not. But no pressure!
Maybe your palms are sweaty, your knees are weak, and there’s vomit on your sweater already — or maybe you just black out entirely when preparing to answer the common interview questions you expect to hear during a panel interview.
Panel interviews can be intimidating because you have to impress so many people, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know to prepare for your next panel interview.
Before you start preparing for a panel interview, you should probably confirm your availability and schedule it first. It would be unfortunate if you spent hours upon hours preparing just to show up without an actual meeting scheduled. Yeesh, talk about embarrassing.
When you receive an invitation for a panel interview, respond right away if they ask for you to confirm your availability. If you’re unable to attend, contact them as soon as possible and request an alternative date or time.
If you’ve agreed to do a panel interview and you don’t even know what in good gravy a panel interview even is — you’ve come to the right place!
A panel interview is conducted by a group of two or more interviewers, and is often referred to as a “firing squad.” Sometimes panel interviews will even consist of multiple candidates, so you’ll be face-to-face with the competition. Sounds scary, right? With some research and preparation, it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t they just look like fun?
As with any other interview, you should look into the company background and the interviewers before the big day. If you don’t already know who your interviewers are, try to find out in advance. Email or call whoever you spoke with to arrange the interview, and ask if they can tell you more about who you’re going to be meeting with — at the very least, they’ll be able to give you their names.
The panel of interviewers will typically include people from various backgrounds and roles within the company to consider your resume and responses from different perspectives. You can expect to meet with representatives that range from the department manager for your position, an HR manager, and team leads from departments that you would work with on a regular basis.
So when you’re preparing for a panel interview, be sure to research on the company background and the individual interviewers. Make sure to know their roles within the company and have a sturdy list of at least one question for each person.
Panel interviewers will generally ask many of the common interview questions that go into details about your personality, how you handle conflict, your problem solving skills, how you handle stress, and your ability to work with a team.
During a panel interview, it’s not really the questions that are different, but how they’re asked and how you deliver them. In many cases, the point of a panel interview is see how candidates react in high-stress situations.
Try to engage and interact with each of the interviewers when delivering your answers. Answer each question directly, but make sure to address the concerns of every interviewer. For example, if one of the interviewers asks about how you manage a team, answer the question while also mentioning how you would include and work with other departments within the company.
Your answer to this question might sound something like,
“Having weekly team meetings is essential in order for everyone to have clear priorities and expectations. I also schedule weekly meetings with other departments I’m working with to enhance our communication and avoid potential misunderstandings.”
Molding a specific question to address the concerns of every interviewer is a great way to strengthen your standing with everyone in the panel and make them think that you really care about everyone in the company, even if all you really care about is getting a job to finance your Star Wars model-building hobby.
When giving your answer to a question in front of a group of people, it might seem like the easiest option to look directly at the person who asked the question — but you’d be excluding everyone else! And that, my friend, is not a good move.
Make sure to look at every person in the panel when answering questions, not just the person who holds the most senior position or the person who asks the most questions. It’s important to make a connection with each and every interviewer.
When you start to answer, focus directly on the person who asked the question, but look around the room and address other interviewers when you elaborate and get into the nitty-gritty of your answer.
Don’t just lock eye contact with them, either. Make sure to actually shift your shoulders and your body so that you’re facing each person instead of just moving your head in every direction like a paranoid owl. And if they look down to take notes, you should still continue to focus on each person to create a more conversational atmosphere.
Don’t take as much time as this guy, though. You’ll just end up hanging around all day.
When you sit on the opposite side of a bunch of interviewers who are shooting questions at you before you can get out your answers, it can really seem like you’re facing a firing squad. Every interviewer wants to get their questions answered, and they want to test how you’ll react in a high stress situation.
To be able to give successful answers, you have to control the pace of the conversation. Instead of trying to answer each question as quickly as possible so you can get to the next one, take your time answering so you can clearly communicate your thoughts.
If an interview asks you another question before you’ve finished giving your last answer, pause and decide if what you were going to say is really important, or if you can skip to the next question. If you feel that what you needed to say could determine your fate of working with the company or not, politely say “Before I get to your question, I’d like to share a final thought on the previous one.”
Because you’re dealing with multiple interviewers instead of just one, this kind of interview will consist of more follow-up questions than your usual one-on-one interview.
Multiple interviewers means multiple perspectives — what answers one person’s questions may rise additional questions from others. Make sure that you’re armed to face the firing squad with multiple examples and anecdotes to explain your experience and satisfy every perspective you’re dealing with.
You can prepare for this by asking your friends to conduct a mock panel interview. Go through the standard interview questions, but encourage them to dig deeper and really challenge your answers with extensive follow-up questions.
This will help you in two ways — it can improve the quality of your answers, while also helping you get comfortable answering questions for multiple people.
We all know that employers love to throw curveballs at the end of interviews and ask “Do you have any questions for me?”
Well, imagine that times two. Or three. Or four — who knows how many! When doing your research on the people who are going to be interview, try to come up with some questions for them about what their jobs are like or how they’re going to fit into your work should you get a job offer.
Panel interviews can be scary, with so many people judging you and asking you questions faster than you can think while under so much pressure. When you know you’re going to be put on the spot by so many different people, it makes sense to prepare for panel interview questions and answers.
Just remember everything you learned here, do your background information, have an arsenal of stories to back up your answers — and you’ll be good to go!