What is a panel interview?
A panel interview is where one candidate meets with two or more individuals (the panel) at the same time. The panel may consist of as many as 10 (or more) people. Sometimes, one person may serve as the moderator and ask the candidate questions on behalf of the group. Other times, the entire panel is free to interact with the candidate, ask specific questions, and respond to questions that the candidate may have.
Panel interviews can be conducted by phone, videoconference, or in person. With the increase in virtual teams and the interconnectedness available through technology, panel interviews have become cost effective and popular.
Panel interviews are most often used when a position requires close interaction with different business groups or teams. This format allows team members and associates to interact with the candidate. Often, the decision-makers will ask for feedback from the teams. Sometimes, the panel interview is simply a courtesy to both the team and the candidate, especially if the candidate will be the team’s manager.
- When the meeting is being scheduled, ask for a list of names and roles of the people who will attend.
- If possible, request that the members of the panel will have your résumé.
- Whenever possible, ask the moderator, or group-at-large to introduce themselves by name and role. This could be their job title, or their relationship to the group. E.g. Project Manager, IT Consultant, Member of the Escalation Team.
- Take extra copies of your résumé. Have your business card ready to hand out.
- If an escort walks you to the meeting room, ask them to describe the people you will meet so that when you enter the room, you can address them by name when you meet them. “Cheryl, it’s a pleasure to be here today. John, thank you for the opportunity.” Etc. This isn’t always possible, but if you can pull it off, it’s impressive.
- Hand them your business card and ask for theirs. You will need their email address when you write your thank-you notes!
- If there are more than three people on the panel, quickly sketch a seating chart with first names so you can address them by name as you respond to questions during the interview.
- As you respond to specific questions, don’t try to tell everybody everything. Select specific information that you can address to specific individuals. E.g. “Cheryl, (head of communications), The article in the Daily Register last month on [Company’s Name] new branding effort (or whatever)…. “
- If a question comes from an individual, and your answer applies to everyone, then be sure to address the entire group through your eye contact.
- Watch for non-verbal responses, especially if one person asks all the questions. If an individual nods affirmatively, or takes notes at a specific time, that might be a cue to respond to them directly.
- If someone is nodding off, it’s a good time to share an interesting scenario from your past.
Phone or virtual settings
- Smile! Yes, even over the phone, studies repeatedly show that when a person smiles, people can tell, even if they can’t see you.
- Be sure to give additional verbal information to make up for the lack of visual feedback. Examples are chuckling, saying, “That funny” or “I’m nodding my head to both of the points you just made.”
- Ask for feedback. This is critical. Especially if you can’t see the people, ask, “Did that answer your question? Would further elaboration be helpful?”
Need an interview? Consider a Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop, where you will learn how to navigate the online application systems and differentiate yourself both on your résumé and in your interview.
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