A Guide to Handling Panel Interviews
It takes a slightly different skill set to excel in a panel interview. Consisting of two or more interviewers – typically from various departments – gathering to interview you at the same time, panel interviews save a lot of time on the parts of all parties involved – the company, interviewers and candidate. Instead of organising separate one-on-one sessions for each interviewer, all parties can sit in and learn about the candidate, job and company at the same time. Additionally, panel interviews give employers a chance to see how well you can perform under pressure.
Truthfully, panel interviews can often be positive experiences, as it’s easier to relax around a group of people, even if they’re recruiters! There’ll be more room and opportunities for chats or discussions, and you’ll also have the chance to hear a range of views if you have any questions.
Regardless, treat the panel interview the same way you would an individual interview. Come prepared with questions if you have any, but remember to always follow up with each panel member. If you didn’t get name cards, ask for their emails or LinkedIn addresses, and send them each a personalised thank-you email afterwards to express your gratitude for their time.
What to expect
Panel interviews typically involve anywhere from two to eight interviewers, though three are usually present for graduate interviews. In all likelihood, they’ll consist of recruiters from human resources (HR) and business departments, as well as other specialists.
By and large, panel interviews are almost similar to competence-based interviews, where interviewers ask questions and expect you to include previous experiences as examples in your answers. However, do expect the session to be more rigorous and meticulous than individual interviews. You’ll be juggling questions from multiple sources, after all!
Meeting your panel interviewers
You may be informed in advance on who’ll be on your panel, but if you aren’t, make an effort to find out. Ask recruiters for the names and titles of those who will be attending, and do a little research. This will give you a better insight into what each interviewer may be looking for. If the panel includes a person whom you’ll be working with closely, identify them and do your best to establish a rapport.
Who do you look at?
Eye contact in a panel interview can be a tricky thing – there are so many participants! Maintain eye contact with the person who asked you a question, but as you finish, glance over at the other interviewers as well to split your attention and ensure no one feels left out.
Address your interviewers by name when you speak to them, but be sure to get the right name! A useful trick is to get their name cards at the beginning of the session, and then place them in front of you according to the interviewers’ sitting arrangement.
What to do if an interviewer looks bored or scribbles notes
Remember: each member on the panel has different interests, so not everyone will be hanging on to what you say. For instance, a technical question is unlikely to interest an HR manager, so just focus on the specialist and don’t fret if the HR manager looks bored or uses the time to record some notes instead.
Getting asked the same question twice
If the same question makes another appearance later down the line, it’s likely a simple oversight on an interviewer’s part. They may have completely missed your response earlier, or lost track of the conversation – there are so many people in the room! Don’t second-guess yourself, and stick to the same version of your story. In fact, you can even use the chance to provide new information that you might have missed out during your first answer.