A panel interview consists, as you might imagine, of a group of interviewers instead of a single person. The panel interview is a time-saving method for companies who wish to have several representatives from different parts of the company see a candidate. Instead of scheduling several interviews over a period of days or weeks, the company reps can all see the candidate at once. They also have the advantage of seeing the candidate at the same time and hearing the question responses in the same context.
The panel interview is also helpful if the position will report to several managers or when a team will all have a say in candidate selection. Some companies believe that a diverse panel can make better hiring decisions and provide more balanced feedback on candidates.
You should never be surprised by a panel interview; it’s one of the questions you can ask when scheduling the meeting: “Can you tell me who I’ll be meeting with?” Try to take notes if your scheduler actually gives you names and titles. You can look up these individuals on the company website or search for information on them on social networking sites like LinkedIn®. At the very least, you can rehearse how to pronounce their names and commit their roles in the company to memory.
First and Last Impressions Matter the Most
One of the most important moments in the interview is the introductions, and it can be the most stressful (especially if you’re not good with names.) So if you have notes on who’s who, it can be a big help. As you meet each panel member, offer a firm handshake and use their names as you greet them. Sometimes, each panelist will give you a business card at the beginning of the meeting. If that’s the case, arrange them as they are seated across from you. If not, ask if you can take some notes, and subtly jot their names down in order.
Most panel interviews will offer the chance for each interviewer to ask a question (or several.) When you begin your answer, start by making eye contact with the person who asked the question. Then, as you expand your answer, take in the others around the table. Be prepared for other follow up questions from other panelists. It’s great if you can include other panelists and previous questions in your answer: “As I told John earlier, I worked on several projects that were similar in scope to yours…”
As the interview winds down, ask if there is any information you can provide in addition to what you’ve discussed. Look at each panelist and give the group time to think and answer. The more relaxed and calm you appear at this stage, the more confident you’ll appear as a candidate. Be sure to ask who will be your point of contact after the interview, and what the next steps will be. Ask when you can follow up if you don’t hear about a decision. Then warmly thank each panelist and shake hands again as you prepare to leave.
If you have business cards, write a separate thank you for each panel member to be delivered with a day or two after your interview. Make sure you get a business card from the lead interviewer, the person who served as host for the interview. He or she should get a thank you right way.
Next: Panel Interview Part 2