Preparing for the Dreaded Panel Interview

*Recently, the topic of panel interviewing has come up frequently in my advising sessions. Below are some thoughts and resources I have compiled. 

Preparing for the Dreaded Panel Interview

After you’ve landed the coveted interview, and passed the initial screening, you may be asked to participate in a panel interview. Do not panic. What should you do? How should you prepare? How could you be armed with the best resources to knock this interview out of the park?

Who are your interviewers?

First, find out who are your interviewers. How many will be interviewing you at once? What is the itinerary for how your interviews will be laid out? What positions do the panel of interviewers hold? Do they hold concurrent roles in the organization you are interviewing? If this information has not been communicated to you, inquire to find out names and possibly interviewer positions and departments (if different). Then, do thorough research online of the interviewers. This can be done by looking at LinkedIn profiles and/or organization bios, googling publishing accomplishments, as well as what projects they have initiated and accomplished. Since most panel interviewers do not come from the same department or have the same role, what makes the panel interview more difficult to navigate is the effort needed to connect with each panelist personally simultaneously. This is challenging with nerves and trying to give the “right answers.” The more you know about each of them, the easier it will be to connect with each individual and show that you are well versed in the department, its people, and the work they are doing. Try not to speak in general terms for every single question you are asked. Rather, think about directing answers to the interviewer who posed the question and connecting with other interviewers, while also glancing around the room to make sure that the other panel interviewers are also included in the answer.

Body Language During a Panel Interview

Be sure to position your body language to be open and accepting toward all panel interviewers. In addition, as you make sure to make eye contact with all of the interviewers, not just the highest ranked individual among the panel, they may start firing away at you with questions. As the interviewee, you will want to be the one that tempers the pace of the interview, particularly if the questions are coming to you too fast.  It is always advised to be diplomatic when answering as professionalism will always be on your side. Before you leave the interview, make sure you request contact information from all the interviewers (who will you direct your thank you to?), so that you have a definite line of communication after your interview. When possible, thank each member individually. Think about the individual panel interviewers’ role and what matters to them, and thank them accordingly. Lastly, smile a lot and don’t be afraid of light humor. These two small gestures can go a long way. Appropriate humor can bring ease to a tense situation and a simple smile can set the right tone to the panel interview.

Have Good Questions Ready to Ask

Also, be armed with good questions to pose to them. A panel can work to your advantage if you have the opportunity to ask them good questions as you will get a variety of answers with a range of perspectives to consider. Do make sure they are good questions since you are asking them to more than one person! If you’ve done your research in advance, this portion of the interview will not be difficult. In addition, questions may have surfaced from earlier in the interview, and you can pose the questions here at this point. In some cases, the panel interviewers may echo one another in their answers and reiterate a point clearly, giving you a clearer picture on how their organization is run.

Here are some additional helpful articles: 7 tips for a successful panel interview, panel interview questions and answers, and 9 things to never do in a panel interview.

Best of luck preparing for your future panel interview.

By Esther Ra
Esther Ra Associate Director, Nursing/Education/Social Work