A panel interview may feel like getting the third degree in a police interrogation. Take control of the situation by using these tips to prepare and relieve stress.
One of the more unsettling job-search experiences I’ve had occurred a few years ago when I was called back for a second interview at a company that wanted to introduce me to the executive staff. Feeling pretty good about the callback, I was thrown for a loop when I saw that the glassed-in conference room was filled with seven people, all from the various other departments.
It turns out that, rather than meeting everyone individually, this would be a “panel interview.” Eeek! Few situations are as intimidating as being seated across a conference table from a line of people who are preparing to judge you. In my case, I stuttered my through the first questions, but managed to get my act together soon enough to impress them and get the job.
The panel interview is an efficient way for an entire staff to assess your skills — not to mention your ability to handle pressure — so expect to see more of these in your future. Here are a few tips to help you handle the next crowd full of furrowed brows.
Don’t let them surprise you. Often, these panel interviews are second or third interviews. If you get a callback, be sure to ask the manager about how many other people will be involved in the interview — and try to get their names.
Read up on the panelists and ask questions. Next, do a deep dive on social media to find out whatever you can about the other managers. See how your role will interact with each of these stakeholders and come up with questions about how your potential job will be related to their everyday needs. The more questions you ask of them, the more seriously they will take you as a team player.
Connect with everyone. Sometimes questions will come from everyone at once, or they each may take turns asking a series of questions, or perhaps only one or two people will do most of the talking. However it unfolds, be sure to address everyone in the room. Make the most eye contact with the ones who ask the specific questions, but try to go around the room and tie your answers into the rest of the team.
Establish some control. Make sure you give yourself enough time to convey the important information. If you get cut off with another question in mid-response, you can say something polite, such as, “Before I answer that, I wanted to finish my earlier point.” Be respectful of their time, but don’t let them intimidate you by forcing you to rush your answers. You should be the one doing most of the talking, anyway.