Like many job seekers, you feel more motivated than ever to kick start your job search now that summer is coming to an end. You updated your resume, applied to various positions, and you finally landed an interview. After quickly freshening up on your interview skills and everything starts to feel familiar, the recruiter calls you with an unexpected twist. Your interview will not be one-on-one as you expected, but instead, it will be a panel interview with multiple department heads. Don’t panic! Here are some pointers on how to ace a panel interview.
- Ask for the interviewers’ titles in advance.
Ask your recruiter/company contact before the interview who you will be meeting with and what their title is with the company. This way, you can personalize your answers and have a better idea of what they are looking for. For example, the HR Manager and the IT Director will have different outlooks coming into the interview and you will be able to direct your answers appropriately knowing their role in the organization.
- Don’t only address the person asking the question.
Answer the question in favor of the person asking, but try to tie in something that will interest the other department heads as well. Make eye contact with the person who asked the question, but take time to glance at others to keep everyone engaged.
- Treat all interviewers equally.
Don’t spend your time sucking up to the President or Owner. All managers in the interview are there for a reason and they all have a say in the hiring decision.
- Cut out the fat.
Get to the point faster than you would in a regular interview. Every interviewer wants their questions answered. Be sure to start off with what is most important before you potentially get cut off. If you get cut off by another interviewer, decide if what you are saying is really important or if it’s okay to move on to the next question. If you do need to finish your previous response, politely ask to finish first before you move on. Try your best to address one question at a time.
- Repeat questions back before responding.
If there is a lot of chatter and questions being thrown at you, it’s okay to repeat the question back. This will not only help you verify what was asked, but it will indicate to the interviewers what question you’re answering next.
- Prepare (many) more real life examples and accomplishments.
For a one-on-one interview, you are accustomed to your usual selling pitch followed by a few great real life examples. For a panel interview, more preparation is needed as you can’t use the same accomplishments over and over. Similar questions will be asked with a slightly different twist from each interviewer and you have to be ready with at least triple the amount of examples of previous experiences.
- Send thank you emails to each interviewer individually.
Ask for a business card from each interviewer and send individual emails to each thanking them for their time. Try to personalize each email as much as possible.
Although this may sound more stressful than a one-on-one meeting, there are some perks to panel interviews. A panel interview indicates that there are multiple opinions needed to fill the role you are interviewing for. This interview style will eliminate the need for you to go back to the office multiple times to interview individually with each department head helping make the final decision. This ultimately speeds up the hiring process, letting you know if you got the job or not in a shorter period of time.
Before walking into your panel interview, remain confident and remember that you can’t always please everyone. No matter how many people are interviewing you, being well-prepared will help you succeed.