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Panel Interviews: How to Ensure You Are Properly Prepared

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By Jessica Palermo
Career Coach

If you’ve ever been interviewed for a job, you know how intimidating the process can be. Mastering the art of interviewing, which involves chatting with someone you don’t know and answering questions on the spot, isn’t easy.

An interview becomes even more complex when you are talking with more than one person at a time. These types of interviews, called panel interviews, can feel even more challenging to master than other formats. 

If the idea of talking to multiple people at once makes you nervous, you are certainly not alone. Today, panel interviews are quite common. If you’re job searching long enough, you will most likely encounter a panel interview.

With the right approach, a panel interview can be a great way for you to build rapport and show off your communication skills. As with any type of interview, proper research and preparation can help you stand out from other candidates.

Related link: 9 Safety Tips to Follow as You Search for a Job Online

How Does a Panel Interview Differ from Other Types of Interviews?

A panel interview is definitely different from a traditional one-on-one interview, when one person – typically the hiring manager – interviews you.

Since there are multiple interviewers, the questions often come at a quicker, more rapid-fire pace. Expect more follow-up questions, as each interviewer may be interested in a different topic.

The way in which you respond to these questions will give interviewers an idea of how well you react under pressure, so remember to remain calm. It is okay if you need a second to gather your thoughts in between questions and comments. You can always say something like, “That is a really great question!” to buy yourself a few extra seconds to process the question and develop your response.

A panel interview can contain any combination of interviewers, and the number of interviewers will vary. Panel members may even come and go throughout the interview. Your panel may consist of:

  • The hiring manager
  • Organization leaders
  • Human resources personnel
  • Different members of the team that you may work for if you are accepted for the position
  • Other potential decision makers

Treat each panel member with the same level of courtesy and respect. It is almost certain that if someone attends the panel interview, he or she will later be asked about your performance.

Related link: The New Qualifier: COVID-19 Vaccination Status and Your Job Search

Predict and Prepare for Interview Questions

As with any type of interview, preparation is key. Take time to thoroughly review the job announcement prior to your interview. This research will help you form a better understanding of what the employer wants in an ideal candidate.

Identify the keywords and skills listed in the job announcement by looking for “must have” job skills and preferred skills. Then, practice framing your responses to potential questions involving these skills. You want to clearly demonstrate in the panel interview how your knowledge and abilities relate directly to the job for which you’re applying.

Remember that if you have made it to the interview stage, you likely have the required experience and skills listed on your resume.  Now is the time to further highlight those skills and illustrate why you are the best fit for the role.

Use the STAR Method in Your Panel Interviews

During a panel interview or any other type of interview, you will probably be asked a few behavioral questions, where the interviewer will ask you to share an example of something specific to help the interviewer gain insight into your past experiences. If the question includes phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give an example of…”, these are clues that the question is behavioral-based.

For behavioral interview questions, I recommend you frame your response using the Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR) Method. Using the STAR method to frame your responses helps structure your answers to interview questions and highlight key information, such as:

  • The situation you encountered
  • What you were tasked with
  • The actions you took
  • The results of your individual actions

When you respond to a behavioral question using the STAR method, focus on your specific achievements. This focus will showcase what you contributed to a situation as an individual versus what your team contributed.

Also, include measurable data, such as numbers, percentages or dollars, when you’re explaining the results of your actions. This type of information helps to quantify your experience and paints a clearer picture of the scope of your results.

Research Your Interviewers Beforehand

It is critical that you take the time to research the employer, review the job announcement and tailor your resume to the position. It’s equally important to learn more about who will be interviewing you. Learning more about your interviewers will help you find ways to establish common ground and build rapport.

If you don’t know who will be on the panel, ask your contact at the potential employer when you confirm the interview date. Once you know who will be on the panel, do some research.

LinkedIn is a great way to research potential interviewers. You can also review the employer’s “About Us” page on the company website and look at the company’s social media sites.

If you still aren’t sure who will be sitting in on your panel interview, LinkedIn can help you determine this information. Consider people within the company who may interview you and search for those positions on LinkedIn. Try searching for the department manager and then go from there.

It is a personal preference whether you view these profiles in private browsing mode or public browsing mode on LinkedIn. However, viewing these profiles publicly will show the interviewers that you have done your research, which can certainly be beneficial during your panel interview. 

Panel Interview Tips

Panel interviews can be challenging, even for those who enjoy interviewing. Remember: the interview is your chance to prove why they should choose you. These tips can help you make a good impression and stand out in your panel interview:

  • Learn each interviewer’s name. When you answer or ask a question, make sure you directly address each panel member. Not only will this technique help you build rapport, but it will also demonstrate that you’re a good team member. You will also need to know each interviewer’s name when you send individual thank-you notes after your interview.
  • Try not to focus your attention on one panel member. Share your attention equally between your interviewers, and make eye contact with all of them.
  • Connect with each panel member on something specific. When you send your individual thank-you notes after the interview, reference the specific area where you felt a connection with that interviewer. This reference will show that you paid attention and remembered each conversation you had during the panel interview.  
  • Ask follow-up questions. Asking questions tells the interviewer that you’re interested in the position and can give you more insight into the role and the employer. This strategy will also help the interview feel more conversational.
  • Remember that you’re interviewing the employer, too. A panel interview is your chance to ask questions and decide if the company and position are the right fit for you. As you prepare for your interview, consider any information you still want to know that hasn’t  been previously addressed and take the time to prepare meaningful questions. During the interview, direct at least one question toward each panel member.

Practice with Our Free Mock Interviews

In Career Services, we offer free mock interviews to help you prepare for several types of interview formats. During a mock interview, you and your Career Coach will review sample interview questions and discuss your responses.

Working with an Industry Career Coach is a great way to practice for an upcoming interview. You can schedule a mock interview in the Success Center by submitting a coaching case request or by emailing us at CareerServices@apus.edu. Remember to reach out to your Career Coach after your interview so we can review your experience and discuss your next steps.

Jessica Palermo has worked for the University since 2018, serving as an Academic Advisor for the schools of STEM and Business before transitioning into Career Services as a Career Coach. She holds a M.S. in counseling from the University of the District of Columbia and a M.A. in international peace and conflict resolution from American University.

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