Don't panic. Take a deep breath. You've got this.
“You're invited to attend a panel interview…” The formal email gleefully announces your advancement to the next stage of the hiring process. There's just one thing troubling you. You have zero clue what a panel interview is and what it will entail. Fear not, as we have the answers you've been looking for. In the following guide, we reveal everything.
What is a panel interview?
If you've been invited to attend a panel interview, you may be scratching your head and wondering what it's all about. While it may sound confusing, this is simply an interview in which there are two - or more - interviewers, rather than one.
Of course, answering one person's questions is hard enough. When you throw other people into the mix, you may find the scenario intimidating. But it doesn't have to be. This type of interview is increasingly common and may be used for the following reasons:
To ensure that the interviewers cover all bases and topics
In the name of fairness - to make sure that there are no biases
So that more than one professional can help to make the decision
Panel interviews are common in educational settings. However, hiring teams in other industries also use them. You may find that this type of interview crops up in the realms of marketing, the tech sector, the civil service, healthcare, and other commercial spaces.
Preparation checklist for a panel interview
Before your panel interview, it's always smart to do both research and prep. If you've got the pre-interview jitters, this approach will help to calm your nerves. Here's our checklist:
Check the location of the interview (or the link, if it's online)
Take a look at common panel interview questions and prep your answers
Outline some example interview answers (and use the STAR approach)
Look up the panel interviewers to find out exactly who they are
Review the invitation email and make sure you haven't missed anything
If possible, find out what format the panel interview will take
How well you can prepare for your panel interview will depend on how much information you have. You may find that the employer gives you in-depth details about what you can expect. However, even with limited information, you can still do your own research here.
Panel interview tips and strategies
Now that you're well-prepared for your panel interview, let's delve into the approaches you can take to ace it. If this is the first time you've been interviewed by multiple people, it pays to get some sage advice. With that in mind, here are the best strategies you can employ:
Calm your nerves first
Facing two or more interviewers is enough to give you butterflies in your stomach. When you arrive at the interview location, give yourself a few minutes to calm your nerves. You may want to try some mindfulness meditation or simply take some deep breaths. Keep in mind that the interviewers are just people - like you - and you don't need to be scared.
Use positive body language
Your body language matters. When you're in a panel interview, you want to make the right impression on each person. For that reason, adopt open body language. Keep your back straight, relax your body, and position yourself towards the person who asks you a question. (Of course, you will need to move around as the panel interview progresses!)
Make eye contact with people
When you're nervous, a lack of eye contact gives you away. You want to come across as genuine and approachable. That means making eye contact with each interviewer when they ask you something. Of course, you can overdo it here. You don't want to inadvertently start a staring competition. Make sure that you keep things as natural as possible.
Ask each interviewer questions
Interviews are a two-way street. While the interviewers are figuring out whether you're the right person for the job, you're also deciding if it's a good fit for you. When an interviewer asks you a question, if you need more information, go ahead and ask them. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Be sure to prepare some.
If possible, use people's names
Want to win yourself some extra brownie points? When you enter a panel interview, you will be introduced to each interviewer. Remember their names. When you're responding to their questions, it may help your case to address them by name. For example, you might use an approachable aside such as “That's a good question, Geoff.”
Don't rush through the questions
Should you feel overwhelmed during a panel interview, you may be tempted to rush through the questions. Don't make that mistake. Whenever an interviewer asks you something, take a pause and a breath. That will give you a chance to properly formulate your answer. There's no sense in starting to speak when you don't know what to say. This approach helps you to establish a natural pace and create a more relaxed environment.
Panel interviews can sound frightening at first. However, you shouldn't let them spook you. The key to excelling in the interview is preparation. The more work you do before you walk into the interview room, the more likely you are to land the job. In this guide, we've covered some of the best preparation tips, along with the stellar strategies you can use.
Ready to land your next interview? If you're looking for a way to get your foot in the door, take a peek at our free, expert CV review. With our advice, you'll stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. What are you waiting for?