There’s no need to get your knickers in a twist: panel interviews aren’t that much different from normal interviews. Yes, it might be a bit daunting when you walk into the interview room and find that the one interviewer you expected has morphed into several interviewers, like some dodgy sci-fi movie, but panel interviews aren’t an excuse for you to turn into a gibbering wreck of interview nerves.
Believe us, panel interviews are getting more and more popular, so you’re bound to come across them at some point during your job hunt.
A panel interview has its advantages…
Being confronted with more than one interviewer can be pretty stressful, particularly because you have more than one person to impress (and you swear that person on the right is giving you the ‘evil eye’), but, at the same time, it can be an advantage. The bonus of a panel interview is that you aren’t subject to the whims and bias of one interviewer; each interviewer will be accountable.
Furthermore, a panel interview can actually give you a better insight into the company, as you’ll meet more employees and see how they work together. Interview candidates have been known to come out of panel interviews far more enamoured with the company than previously. For others, it might take a panel interview to realise that the company probably isn’t their scene. Remember the golden adage: you’re interviewing the employer too.
Who will be on the panel?
A panel interview is likely to consist of: someone who’s high up in the department or company, a line manager, and perhaps someone from human resources; although the number and type of people that’ll be interviewing you will vary employer to employer. You might be asked questions by only one person whilst the others keep schtum, or they might all have a list of questions to ask you.
Usually, their questions will be focused on their specific area of expertise. For example, partners or senior managers might be interested in your commercial awareness and what you know about the company, whereas a line manager might ask you more situational-based questions that will assess your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
How should I prepare for a panel interview?
The simple answer is to prepare for a panel interview in exactly the same way you would for a normal interview: that means researching the company and the role, practising answering interview questions and brushing up on your commercial awareness. Take a look at our interview preparation tips for some pointers.
What about during the panel interview?
During the interview, you’ll probably be asked pretty much the same kind of interview questions that you’d be asked in a standard one-on-one interview. The main difference is that you’ll need to handle talking to more than one person. Make sure you make eye contact with each of the interviewers; although try to focus most of your attention on the person asking the question.
Pay attention to your body language too: keep it open to the others, i.e. don’t angle your body away from them. When you ask questions, you might want to direct certain questions at certain interviewers; for example, it’s a good idea to put questions about your day-to-day tasks to the line manager.
Afterwards, don’t forget your manners and send a thank you note to each of the interviewers. It always helps to be polite.