10 Tips for a Successful Panel Interview

A young woman attending a panel interview in a brightly lit office

Interviews are stressful enough on their own without being faced with two or more professionals firing questions at you. But more often than not, this is the normal practice that most companies follow.

So, to ensure you don’t crack under pressure and miss your chance of bagging your dream job, here are the best tips to study and practise to ensure you nail your panel interview!

1. Prepare for Common Questions

As with any type of interview, preparation is key – especially when you’re faced with the prospect of firing squad throwing all sorts of questions at you left, right and centre.

So, to ensure that you bring your A-game, it’s essential to practise answers to common interview questions, along with behavioural and difficult questions.

Do remember that the panel will typically consist of members from different departments, each focusing on a different area. For example, an HR manager will care mostly about your teamwork abilities, while your direct supervisor might care more about the specific technical skills you bring to the table.

2. Research the Panellists

Competitor and company research is a given, regardless of whether it’s a phone interview or a screening one! However, when you know you’ll be meeting more than one member of the team, it’s essential to dive into their work history and find a little more out about their role and duties.

If you’ve already been provided with some names – great! All you need to do is some online research (starting from the company’s website or LinkedIn page) to get a deeper understanding of their position. If, on the other hand, you haven’t been given much information, don’t feel shy to ask your interview contact for further information so you can turn up fully prepared!

3. Dress to Impress

While your skills, qualifications and personality matter the most in a job interview, you’ll initially be judged based on your body language and what you’re wearing. So, choosing the right outfit is just as important as your interview preparation.

That said, it’s important to not overdo it, but rather blend in with the company’s normal dress code. Let’s say that you’re interviewing at a startup; the environment is going to be much more casual than a corporate firm, so a two-piece suit won’t be essential. Instead, a pair of chinos and a polo top will ensure you look presentable but not overdressed.

4. Mind Your Body Language

Interviews are nerve-wracking, and these nerves tend to wreak havoc on our body – making us slouch, shake and occasionally blush. To ensure you appear as confident as ever, the secret to success is having great body language.

While it’s difficult enough holding it together in front of one interviewer, it’s even more crucial in a group setting when you have extra pairs of eyes on you. So, besides having good posture and open gestures, you must make eye contact with everyone when you’re answering their questions. However, do maintain more eye contact with the person that’s asking the question to avoid appearing rude. To help you master this technique, practise with a few members of your family while you’re having dinner.

5. Connect with Everyone on the Panel

Maintaining good eye contact is one thing, but building a connection with everyone in the room is quite another. To successfully build rapport with all your interviewers, you’ll need to divide your attention equally and to maintain an open line of communication with everyone. For example, you could ask each person a question that is relevant to their specific area of expertise and use their names as much as possible when doing so.

By asking questions, you may also find common interests, which can help you bond with them. While it may be tricky to do so in a short amount of time, it’s necessary to get as much information as you can to determine whether you’d be a good culture fit and to see if the company’s values align with your own.

6. Ask Questions

It’s important to ask questions of your own during the interview – not only to discover more about your interviewers but to also see if the position is what you thought it would be and whether you’d be a good match for the team.

Don’t forget that an interview is a two-way street, and if you’re serious about the role, then you’ll want to know as much as possible if you’re going to be offered the job. To help you prepare, take a look at our list of the 100 best questions to ask during an interview, and adapt them to suit your role and experience.

7. Control the Pace of the Conversation

As you sit on the other side of the panel, you may feel slightly intimidated with so many people firing questions at you. You might even be halfway through an answer before another question comes flying your way. This can be stressful, to say the least.

To succeed in this type of interview, you need to control the pace of the conversation without appearing rude. So, for example, if you’re mid-sentence and you feel that your answer is important, address the person that’s asking the new question by saying something like: ‘Before we move onto something else, I’d like to conclude with…’.

8. Prepare for Repetition

Occasionally, you’ll find new people joining your interview midway and, understandably, they’ll tend to ask questions that you’ve previously answered. While this can be frustrating, you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for a lot of repetition.

Avoid sounding impatient, and think of a few different ways to answer the same question while keeping the basis of your answer the same. For example, if you’re asked where you see yourself in five years, avoid beginning your response with something like ‘as I said before…’ and instead give a clear answer by sticking to the same end goal that you previously mentioned.

9. Thank Each Member Personally

As your panel interview comes to an end, be sure to thank each of your interviewers individually. Make sure you shake their hands, while maintaining eye contact, and, if possible, get their business cards. Remember: it’s important to ensure that you stay engaged with all members of the group until you walk out of the interviewing room if you want to leave a good final impression.

10. Follow Up

Now that the hard part is over, it’s time to follow up and thank the interviewers for their time! But rather than sending a mass email to all the panellists, follow up with each panel member individually with a personalised message.

That said, if you don’t have the contact details for all panel members, it’s perfectly fine to send a message to your initial contact with a well-written ‘thank you’ note.

While a panel interview might initially compare to entering a lion’s den, it’s not actually that scary once you’ve followed these preparation tips! With the preparation, you’ll not only survive but also ace your panel interview.

Have you ever had a panel interview before? Join the conversation below to let us know how you succeeded.