How to ace a panel interview

Top panel interview tips

manager talking to his team member

Panel job interviews can be more stressful than a one-on-one interviews. Making sure you research the panel members and learn some tricks to help you stay calm can help your confidence. 

Organisations often use a panel interview format to get multiple perspectives when searching for an ideal candidate, rather than just that of the hiring manager. It’s an opportunity for team leads to meet new members, and for you to meet your potential employer and get a sense of the company culture before committing to a job offer. 

More so than phone or one-on-one interviews, panel interviews with three or more interviewers all focusing their attention on you will make most jobseekers a little nervous, but there are ways to prepare for a panel interview and help you gain confidence. 

Here are Hays’ top tips for preparing for a panel interview:

Research the panel: 

Ask your recruiter or company contact for the names and job titles of the people on the panel, and research them on the organisation’s website or their LinkedIn profile. This allows you to put faces to names, so you can address the panellists by name in the interview. You will also be able to find the list of attendees attached to the calendar invite.

Remember to prepare for the standard interview questions asked in one interviewer interviews too and be sure to read the job description carefully. 

For a complete guide on everything you need to know to prepare for a successful job interview download our Job Interview Guide.

Anticipate questions: 

Also use this research to anticipate what each individual panel member is likely to focus on. Then you can prepare relevant examples before your interview. For example, for a HR representative on the panel you could prepare examples that demonstrate how your values align with the company culture and purpose.

Speak to the entire panel: 

It is easy to focus only on the question asker. While this is natural, try to engage each individual on the panel to demonstrate your interpersonal skills. This is an opportunity for a job candidate to build rapport early in the hiring process.

Remain calm: 

Some jobseekers may feel comfortable in a one-on-one situation but get intimidated when speaking to a group. Panel interviews are implemented to test how you react in a high-pressure environment. Body language is important, keep relaxed, focus on your breathing, collect your thoughts, maintain eye contact when necessary, and try to settle your nerves as best you can, particularly if the panel is asking a series of ‘rapid fire’ questions.

Ask each panellist a question: 

The time you put into research will allow you to identify the different expertise of your interviewers, so use this to prepare at least one question for each interviewer that targets their specialisms in relation to your role. Ideally these will be related follow-up questions to that interviewer’s question. 

Panel interviews are difficult

It’s hard for job seekers to walk into group interviews when an important job opportunity is on the line. Having to answer questions well while maintaining composure in front of strangers is a stressful challenge (which is one of the reasons panel interviews are used) that candidates aren't expected to be absolutely perfect at. Remember that the panellists on the other side of the table are just people too. Take a deep breath and do your best. 
Worst case scenario, the panel interview doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d like. That’s okay, it just means you’ll be more prepared for the next panel interview in your job search. Either way, when the interview ends, be polite, thank each panel member for their time and shake their hand to leave a great final impression. 

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