With more and more interviews being held by a panel of 3 or 4 people, how do you prepare for all the questions lobbed at you? Hint: PREPARE

Heading into any job interview can be stressful, but for some candidates, heading into a panel interview can be particularly nerve wracking. Given that panel interviews are here to stay, here are some of my tips to make sure you go in prepared and poised for anything the panel throws at you.

Before the Interview:

  • Do your homework: A panel interview is like any other interview, so make sure you ask your recruiter for more information on the panelists’ names and titles. Use the company website and LinkedIn to get background on their current role in the organization.
  • Practice Your Answers: Panel interviews typically focus on behavioral questions along the lines of “Tell me about a time you handled a tough situation?” or “How did you increase sales?” However, as you will have multiple people lobbing questions at you, take time beforehand to tailor your answers to the person asking it. Practice saying those answers out loud to make them as succinct as possible.

During the Interview:

  • Shake Hands With Everyone: Even though you may be nervous, outwardly project confidence. Shake hands with all the panelists and introduce yourself. If they offer their business cards, read it carefully to make a mental note of who is who on the panel and what function they serve. You can also make a note in your notebook and don’t be shy of taking notes during the interview – employers often appreciate that.
  • Let Panelists Finish Asking Their Questions: Don’t interrupt the panelists with breathless questions. Panel interviews tend to be more formal and interrupting the panelists becomes very disruptive. Take a deep breath and wait for your turn to answer.
  • If you Don’t Understand the Question, Ask them to Repeat it: If you’re unsure of what the question is getting at, ask the panelist to repeat the question. If you need more time to think about what you’re going to say, you can also paraphrase the question to frame your answer correctly.
  • Ditch the Jargon: Your panel may comprise of employees from different divisions, and they may not all be familiar with the technical lingo of your department. So, ditch the jargon and keep the answers simple and easy to understand.
  • Pay Attention to Body Language: Be mindful that even though you are answering one person, you have to acknowledge the rest of the panel as well. Make sure you maintain eye contact with all the panelists and try and build consensus among them with your answers.
  • Use the Interview to Showcase Your Cross-Functional Leadership Abilities: A panel interview needs you to make your case to a diverse group so you have to be able to state your achievements confidently and back them up with quantifiable proof. Moreover, as you have to communicate with different members of a group, panel interviews are test cases of how you interact with multiple personalities and perform under pressure.

After the Interview:

  • Don’t leave the room without making the most of the end of the interview. Make sure you smile, shake hands with the panel and reiterate why you think you’d be great for their open position.
  • And finally, don’t forget to send a thank-you email or note to all of the panelists. If you know who among them might be your boss – you can send them an individual note thanking them for the opportunity.

Are there any tips that I may be missing? Drop me line here to share your ideas on how to ace panel interviews.