While the traditional interview format involves one candidate and one interviewer, many companies make use of panel interviews in their hiring process. Facing multiple interviewers during what’s already a nerve-racking process might seem intimidating, but panel interviews can actually be beneficial to the candidate.
In this article, we’ll help you prepare for a panel interview and explain how you can use this interview format to your advantage. Plus, we’ll share some sample interview questions and suggested answers to help you land the job.
What Is A Panel Interview?
As its name suggests, a panel interview consists of a panel of two or more people collectively interviewing a job candidate. Panel interviews give hiring managers the perspective of a range of people with different experiences and backgrounds, which can help narrow down the best candidate for the job.
The panel is typically made up of several people who will interact with the candidate on a regular basis, like their prospective boss, peers, and possibly even employees who the candidate would manage. Sometimes a panel interview even brings in interviewers from outside the organization to lend their expertise.
Good companies take care to comprise their panels of a diverse mix of people, like a mix of men and women, or interviewers of varied races and ethnic backgrounds. This helps mitigate bias in the hiring process, which is advantageous to you as a candidate.
The opportunity to interact with multiple people from the organization is another plus, since it gives you a better feel for the company culture than if you met with only one interviewer. Interviewing with multiple people is also a great opportunity to observe the team’s dynamic—whether they seem to communicate well, have a good rapport with one another, and so on. If not, this may be a warning sign that the company isn’t the best fit for you.
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How To Prepare For A Panel Interview
The steps to prepare for a panel interview are largely the same as those for a standard interview, with a few additional considerations.
First and foremost, carefully note the time and location of your interview and take extra care to be there ahead of your scheduled window. If you’re late, you’re not just holding up one person, but a whole group of people. Do everything you can to avoid rescheduling a panel interview, as finding an available time slot across multiple schedules is much more challenging than rescheduling with just one interviewer.
Next, find out ahead of time who will be on the panel so you can do your homework. Learn a little about each person you’ll be interviewing with, including their job title, role at the company, and professional background. Prepare at least one thoughtful question for each of your interviewers.
Eye contact makes a big difference in your perceived level of confidence. In one study, participants with higher self-esteem were found to break eye contact less frequently than those with lower self-esteem, who broke eye contact more often. When giving your answers, try to split your time making eye contact with each of the panel members rather than staring down the one who asked the question.
Think of it like being in a conversation at a cocktail party. You don’t just look at one person while you’re talking; you naturally shift your eye contact from one person to the next while you speak. If you’re new to panel interviews, grab a couple of friends to stand in as your interviewers and practice this.
Finally, brush up on our steps to prepare for a job interview so you can put your best foot forward on interview day.
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Sample Panel Interview Questions (And How To Answer Them)
During your panel interview, be prepared to field questions from all of your interviewers. They’re also likely to ask follow-ups to one another’s questions.
To help you ace this opportunity, here are a few sample interview questions the members of your panel may ask and some things to consider as you prepare your response.
1. Why do you want to work for our company?
Many candidates hate this question because it seems irrelevant. Whether this job is your passion or you simply need the money, why does it matter either way if you’re qualified for the role, right? While we certainly sympathize with this line of thinking, there are some genuinely good reasons interviewers ask this question.
For one thing, it helps them assess how you might fit in with the company and whether your values are aligned with theirs. It also helps them gauge whether you view the role as a long-term opportunity or just a stepping stone on the way to something else. Finally, it’s useful in revealing whether you prepared for the interview.
You can answer this question in one of two ways, or a combination of both. You might use the background research you did on the company during your interview prep to talk about why it seems like a place you’d want to work. Or, you can talk about the specific aspects of the role you’re interested in and why you believe it meshes well with your qualifications.
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
While it might be difficult to think past what you’re going to have for lunch after your interview, this question is an important one in helping your interviewers determine whether you’ll succeed in the role and, from a broader perspective, at the company. A good employer is concerned with making sure you not only get your job done, but are satisfied with it, so it’s a good sign if they demonstrate genuine interest in your answer.
This is not the time to share that you dream of one day starting your own craft brewery or running for President. Instead, talk about how you see yourself progressing in this particular role. It’s okay to be a little vague here! You can mention that you’re excited about becoming proficient in a new position, getting the opportunity for further training in this industry and possibly advancing within the company when the time is appropriate.
3. Why did you leave your last job?
You’ll want to be sure to prepare for this panel interview question ahead of time. It’s a tough question by design, and if you can navigate it gracefully you’ll score points with your panel of interviewers.
The best answers to this question are honest without spilling unnecessary details. Here are some examples of good reasons you can cite for your job search:
- There are limited opportunities for advancement in my current role, and I’m looking to grow in my career.
- While I love my job, it seems as though this position is a better fit for my skills in [specific area] and my professional goals.
- My career is important to me, but I took some time off to focus on [insert worthwhile cause here]. I’m excited about an opportunity to put my skills to work once again.
- Unfortunately, I was part of a restructuring that eliminated my position. Since then I’ve spent my time networking and working on my professional development independently while I look for the right position.
Keep your answer short and sweet. The longer you stay on this topic (especially if you’re not leaving your current job on the greatest terms), the longer you risk sharing something you’d be better off keeping to yourself.
4. What’s an example of a challenge you overcame in your last job?
The phrasing on this question may vary (how do you deal with difficult situations? Tell us about a time you disagreed with another team member on a shared project, etc.), but the goal is the same: to get you to speak analytically about your ability to overcome challenges.
As you prepare for your panel interview, gather a few anecdotes you can use to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities. This might include working on a team to reach a tough goal, meeting a tight deadline to please a client, or coming through for your boss on a challenging assignment. Set up the problem, talk through how you approached it, and close with the positive resolution.
It’s a good idea to have a few different anecdotes in your back pocket so you can choose the one that best suits the question in the moment.
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You’ve Done Your Preparation… Now Let’s Get You An Interview
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