How to Have a Successful Panel Interview

John Krautzel
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Panel interviews amplify the nerve-wracking experience of competing for a job, challenging you to use every skill in your arsenal to impress a group of interviewers. To shine in your interview, focus on connecting with each panelist and staying composed under pressure. Study up on the interviewers in advance to make sure your answers reflect the skills and qualities they expect in leading job candidates.

Research the Panelists

While it's daunting to be outnumbered by a jury of potential colleagues, a panel interview gives you the chance to sway multiple opinions at once. Panelists represent different sectors of the company and have individual, job-specific priorities when it comes to hiring. Go a step beyond researching the company, and find out the functions and responsibilities of each interviewer. Armed with this information, you can prepare relevant questions and think about which skills and organizational goals are most important to each employee. Avoid mispronunciations on the big day by confirming the interviewers' names beforehand.

Build Rapport Right Away

Instead of waiting awkwardly in silence, immediately engage with your audience. Greet the panelists by name, make eye contact, and offer a handshake when introducing yourself to establish a connection. Small talk is a great way to share your positive first impressions about the company or building, but avoid sabotaging your panel interview by complaining or making negative remarks. Do your best to read the room, and adopt a more formal or conversational style based on the personalities of the interviewers.

Put Answers in Perspective

Panel interviews are commonly used for management roles, making it essential for job candidates to emphasize their ability to make effective decisions in a group setting. In addition to preparing answers and examples, tailor your delivery to the panelist asking the question. For example, creative directors may evaluate your delegation and project management skills, financial managers may emphasize cost-efficiency and HR managers may focus on cultural fit. Whenever possible, craft multidimensional answers that highlight a wide range of knowledge and abilities.

Control the Pace

Because panel interviews pit you against multiple speakers firing one question after the next, you can easily get overwhelmed and leave out important details. A smart technique is to build on a previous answer with a simple lead-in, such as, "To add to Mark's question ... " Referring back creates a natural flow in the conversation while giving you opportunities to reinforce your strengths and add depth to your success stories.

Make Your Notes Count

Taking notes shouldn't be something you do simply to appear attentive. Come prepared with questions for specific panelists, and use your observations throughout the panel interview to flesh out your list. Ask meaningful questions that demonstrate your understanding of how the position relates to other departments and the organization as a whole. Leave interviewers with the impression that you can successfully set goals, prioritize and achieve beneficial results for the company.

Make it easy for panelists to imagine working with you by being mindful of the body language and personality traits you project throughout the meeting. Use the final moments of a panel interview to make a closing statement summing up your value, and take advantage of traditional etiquette rules, such as thank- you notes, to keep the lines of communication open while you wait for an offer.

Photo courtesy of ceobrien1975 at


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