What is more stressful than a job interview? A panel interview. It can feel like the whole room is staring at you. The questions start coming at a breakneck pace. It can all seem a bit overwhelming. However, with the right groundwork and mindset, you will find your equilibrium, stay calm, and be successful.
Follow these 7 pro tips to win the panel interview:
- Research those on the panel
Find the names and titles of those who will be on the panel then research each of them on LinkedIn and the company website. Obtain at least two data points for each of the interviewers that will enable you to connect and build rapport. Weave the shared areas of interest that you discovered into your responses. Also, based upon your research and the roles that the interviewers hold, try to anticipate the types of questions that will be asked.
- Manage your time
Panel interviews typically last for a minimum of 90 minutes. Plan your time and have an agenda in mind. At the start of the meeting discuss the time frame and what you hope to accomplish. Think of this interview as a simulation of a group meeting.
- Take control of the pace of the conversation
When asked a question, pause for a second to formulate a response that is brief and to the point. If an interviewer cuts you off to ask another question and you have not finished your thought, decide whether what you had left to say is critical for the interviewers to know. If it is not, move on to the new question. If it is valuable information say, “Before I answer this question, I’d like to share a final thought on the last one.” Then succinctly complete your previous response.
- Be mindful of your eye contact and body language
When you are asked a question, directly address this interviewer for a few moments. Then, move your focus to another individual and address them for a few moments. Make clear eye contact with each individual instead of scanning to the group without focus. Be aware of how you are communicating with your body language, too. Instead of focusing all your attention on the interviewers who hold the most senior position or ask the most questions, make a connection with each person in the room. In addition to eye contact, shift your shoulders so that you are squarely facing the person you are addressing. Continue to move your gaze from interviewer to interviewer. To project more energy, do not sit back in the chair, instead slide forward a bit. This position lends itself to more natural hand and arm movement.
- Create a conversational atmosphere
When possible, tie your responses back to previous questions and direct points to individuals who would be interested in those points. This demonstrates an elevated level of attention, shows that you are thinking on your feet, and makes everyone feel like they are part of the discussion.
- Recognize the power dynamics of the panel
Address the toughest members of your audience, looking them in the eye. Mention them by name. Address their concerns and demonstrate your ability to solve them. By showing you can field the most challenging inquiries, you will win over the entire group. Also, be aware of those who are not speaking. Think about how you present to everyone in the room, both the vocal ones and the quiet ones. Often, the quiet ones pay more attention to your responses than the ones asking the questions. They will all be evaluating you.
- Send separate thank you emails to each person on the panel
Send individualized messages to each member of the panel to thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the position. Your note could be what separates you from the other candidates. Use this opportunity to clarify any questions left unanswered or elaborate on something significant from the interview and remind them of the value you would bring to the role.
Panel interviews can seem intimidating, but with the right preparation and mindset, you will find your confidence and shine. Panel interviews are a fantastic way for you to meet multiple people from the team, get a better sense of the company culture, and show your competitive edge over other applicants. Combine these tips with how you would prepare for a standard interview, and you will be ready to win the panel interview.