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Panel interview tips
How to influence a panel of interviewers!

Why panel interview tips? Because being interviewed by a panel of people is different than a one-to-one job interview

You'll definitely need to use slightly different job interview techniques if you want to impress the panel!

And......it is quite likely that you will have to face a panel of interviewers as part of the job interview process at some stage in your career, if you haven't already experience this.

Panel job interview techniques are probably the most frequently used process for candidate selection for government jobs, and in almost all large and medium sized organisations.

Are you about to graduate from college or university and want to move into a graduate level position? Organisations that have an annual block intake of graduates will do panel interviews to select their new employees. Panel interviews are also common for internships

So...... you have to be prepared to handle this type of interview!

Why are panels used for job interviews?

The short answer is that the hiring organisations want to get it right......they want the best candidate for the job.

By involving several people in the decision making process to determine the best person for the job, the theory is...... a better hiring decision is likely to be made by a group of people rather than an individual.

Most people confess to feeling a little nervous about having to appear before a panel of people for their job interview.

Please be assured that, just as for one-to-one interviews, if you are properly prepared and apply these panel interview tips, there is really nothing to be anxious about.

So.....let's look at what panel interview selection processes are all about so that you can prepare properly for you upcoming interview.

Panel interview tips
Who will be on the panel?

This will of course vary in individual organisations....I've heard of job interview panels consisting of up to 5 or 6 people! Now, a panel of that size could be a bit intimidating, but this situation is not common.

Two and up to four people is the most common sized interview panel in my experience.

The panel could consist of any of the following:

  • Your future manager
  • Your future manager's manager
  • A future co-worker or team member
  • A key stakeholder representative, for example the manager or a team member from another area of the organisation with whom you need to work closely
  • A representative from the human resources department of the organisation
  • Sometimes a professional recruiter who may have been handling the advertising and pre-screening of applicants

The composition of the interview panel may also change depending on whether this is the first or second interview in the job interview process.

Panel interview tips - composition of the panel

During a second job interview it is quite common for the panel to consist of only three people - your future boss,your future boss's boss and a representative from the human resources area.

During first round interviews it is much more likely that the panel will consist of future co-workers or other key stakeholders, in addition to your manager and a HR representative.

Panel interview tips
How the interview panel works

You'll find that each job interview panel will have it's own unique approach to the way it conducts the interview. There's no standard rule or operating procedure for these types of job interview techniques.

How the panel prepares for the interview

Usually members of the panel will have met as a group before your interview to:

  • decide who will lead or chair the interview panel
  • decide how the interview will be conducted
  • develop a list of questions and plan which people will be asking them. Note...this is likely to include behavioral interview questions.
  • develop a list of criteria against which you (and other candidates, if relevant) will be evaluated
  • prepare an interview responses marking key, or marking guide which will used by panel members to comment on and rate the performance of each candidate
  • determine any other roles to be carried out, for example who will take notes of answers, who will be observing you and what they will be looking for

This planning helps to ensure that your interview goes as smoothly as possible. Remember, the organisation conducting your interview is just as keen to make a good impression with you, as you are trying to show your best self to them!

Remember also, a number of candidates may be interviewed for the position. The panel will want to ensure that all job candidates will, as far as possible, experience the same approach to their interview. Therefore, thorough preparation by the panel is necessary.

It is common practice for the panel to have a leader, or chairperson. This is often the person who will be the first to greet and introduce themselves to you. Typically the chairperson will:

  • introduce you to the other members of the panel
  • explain how the interview will be conducted
  • and also ask you the first questions of the interview
  • continue to oversee the direction of the interview and eventually will conclude the interview

Panel interview tips

Be prepared for these types of things during the interview:

  • One or more panel members may say nothing at all during the interview....their role may be to simply observe you and take notes about what they observed, their impressions of you and details of your answers.
  • A panel member breaking off eye contact with you to take notes about what you've said.....this can be quite off-putting if you're not prepared for it.
  • A panel member who has not previously taken any notes starts making notes.

And.......

The body language of individual panel members at various time during the interview.....you may not always have the undivided attention of all the panel members, all the time during the interview. This can also be off-putting.

Different panel members playing good cop/bad cop roles in the interview.

Why? Depending on the job, some interview panels will want to explore how you deal with pressure, or conflict situations. So.....good cop, bad cop panel member!

Stay calm.....focus on the questions being asked, and in giving good answers.

Panel interview tips
How to make a success of your interview

In reality, a panel interview is not so different from being interviewed by just one person. There's just more people to impress!

You'll use the same job interview tips to prepare for your panel interview as you would for any other type of interview.

And......your interview responses to questions will also obviously be the same.

So what's different about a panel interview?

During the introductions

Here are a few panel interview tips that will make all the difference to your performance:

  • During the introductions do the usual.....a warm smile combined with a friendly greeting, make good eye contact with each person, exchange a firm handshake.
  • Repeat each person's name when you are introduced to them.....you'll be more likely to remember their name during the interviewing.

During the interview

  • Eye contact.....make eye contact first with the person who asks the question, then vary your gaze to include other members of the panel as you continue to answer the question. Talk to the whole panel as you answer questions.....even those who aren't looking at you while they make notes.
  • Try to use the person's name when you are responding to their question during the interview. This helps in developing a relationship with them.....and it adds to the confidence and poise you show the panel during the interview.

After the interview

Sometimes members of the interview panel will give you their business card either at the beginning or end of interview.

If this happens that is a bonus. A well tried interview follow up tip is to send a letter, or email, to the interviewer, or in this case, to members of the interview panel.

The purpose of your letter or email is simply to:

  • thank them for the opportunity to be involved in the interview
  • express again your interest in the position
  • indicate your confidence that you can meet their expectations for achieving the requirements of the position

If you don't have the business cards of all the panel members, at least try to get the contact details of the chair of the panel and send a follow up letter to them.

Panel interview tips
How is your interview performance assessed?

All well designed job interview processes essentially explore three broad areas of a candidates suitability. These job interview tips explain what these three areas area.

A panel of interviewers will be assessing you in exactly the same way. They will be evaluating:

  • whether you have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to handle the job
  • the reasons you give about your motivation in applying for the job, and for wanting to work for their organisation
  • your fit with the team in which you're going to work, and more broadly with the type of person that the organisation employs

Make sure then that your preparation covers each of these three areas.

Panel interview tips - summary

As you probably realise now, panel interviews are different......but only to the extent that you're having to manage how to impress a group of people rather than an individual.

In all other respects, your preparation, interview responses and other job interview techniques that you might use in a one-to-one interview all still apply.

New! Comments

Has this helped you in your job search? What else would you like to see here about job search? Leave me a comment in the box below.
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