Pointers for Surviving the Dreaded Panel Interview


Hannah Morgan

Hannah Morgan
There is probably nothing more overwhelming than walking into a room where five, six, or more people are sitting behind a table waiting to interview you. What will you do to level the playing field and take on the team?

To prevent this surprise from happening in the first place, be sure you ask the person coordinating the interview who you will be interviewing with and what the format of the interview will be. Yes, you can ask these questions.

Armed with an idea of who may be in the room, start researching the interview team by looking on the company's website and LinkedIn to learn more about their background. As you research the people and the company, create a list of questions you would like them to answer. Asking questions during the interview shows interest in the job and creates a more balanced conversation. Here are some questions to get you started:

What are the most important elements of this job?

* What are the three main factors you will be using to determine the right person for this job?
* What did the last person in this position go on to do?
* How is job performance evaluated at your company, and how often will I be evaluated?
* What types of skills do you NOT already have on-board that you're looking to fill with a new hire?
* What goals do you expect the person who takes this job to achieve during the first year (or 30, 60, 90 days)?
* What are common mistakes that people just starting this job make that I can avoid?
* What do you like best about working here?
* Has anyone on your staff been promoted over the last couple of years? If so, what was the reason why this person was promoted?
* A panel interview provides the interviewers with the opportunity to evaluate you and your answers given the same set of circumstances. It also saves time. To help level the playing field, establish rapport when you first enter the room. Walk up to the panel and shake each person's hand and introduce yourself. Don't forget to smile and have a firm handshake.

During the interview, it may feel like questions are being fired at you from different angles, and you may wonder who to address when you answer a question. The key is to make regular eye contact with the person who has asked the question. Once you have finished your answer, quickly scan the expressions and body language of the other panelists. You're hoping to see smiles, head nods, or body language that indicates they're listening and engaged. You may want to address your next question to the person who seems least interested or engaged to draw them in.

At the close of the interview, be sure to thank each person on the panel and shake their hands again. Don't be afraid to ask for their business cards. You will need this information to send each panelist a customized and unique thank you letter.