Preparing for a Panel Job Interview

Untitled design (57)Panel interviews have often been the preserve of senior positions where the candidate is expected to handle the additional pressure of sitting across from up to six interviewers firing questions at them.  However with companies waking up to the cost of making incorrect recruitment decisions the use of this technique is becoming increasingly common.

The dynamic created by the panel interview enables the employer to assess how an individual performs under pressure, tests the softer skills together with certain aspects of team work.

From an organisations point of view this type of interview facilitates the buy in and engagement  of a number of key people which a senior role often demands. It also enables the fast tracking of a recruitment process an important consideration with companies looking to secure the very best talent.

The basic techniques when preparing for a panel interview are much the same as you would do for a normal interview.

Do your research

Understand the structure of the interview, the names and roles of the people who will be attending. Research the company website together with social media channels ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr) to gain useful back ground into the organisation and the interview participants. For quoted companies review financial websites such as Yahoo Finance to gather a better understanding of information in the public domain. If the interview is arranged by a recruitment agent ensure you spend time with the agent getting to know what they know about the process, the people and the company.

Ensure you fully understand the job and personal specifications and match the requirements to your experience, skills and interests. Remember to check out the company’s values and consider what you think about these, can you relate to them?

Ask yourself how you can help the company and make a difference in the role you are applying for. Run through likely questions and how you will answer them ( many example questions can be found on dedicated career websites or blogs).

If possible arrange a mock interview using a career support organisation or the recruitment agent. If this is not possible practice answering example question by speaking aloud in front of a mirror or recording yourself on a mobile device. Check out your body language – you will learn a lot.

The Interview

Having done your preparation you should feel quietly confident. When invited into the room smile, greet the people and explain you appreciate the opportunity to meet with them, make eye contact with each person.

Remember the panel members names and roles within the organisation, do not be afraid to make a discrete note of these details as you are settling yourself. This information will position you to better tailor your answers as the interview progresses.

Here are some tips that may help you:

  • Ask yourself what your body language is conveying about you; do not fidget or cross your arms, sit up straight, smile and do not frown.
  • Be calm and try to relax but do not be overly casual. Remember a few nerves are natural and are generally a good thing as they demonstrate you care and want to do well.
  • Maintain eye contact with members of the panel, read their body language to assess if your answers are hitting the mark.
  • Use positive language and present a realistic but positive outlook on situations you are describing.
  • Be genuine and honest in your responses. When being interviewed by a panel of people the likelihood of mistruths or over elaborations being uncovered is multiplied.

The panel interview is often designed to assess how a candidate performs in stressful situations, so be prepared for quick fire questions or questions that build on one another form different members of the panel.

  • Listen carefully to what the interviewers are asking; if it is not clear ask for the question to be repeated.
  • Pace yourself, think before you speak, do not rush your answers.
  • When answering a specific question ensure you address your answer not only to the person asking the question but to the panel. Do not deliberately or sub-consciously exclude any member of the panel  when answering.
  • When asked how you would approach specific situations, where possible and appropriate, structure your response in such a way that it relates to areas of interest of the different panel members. This helps build engagement and demonstrates organisational empathy, both are key aspect of teamwork.

Closing the interview is important. Ask if there are any areas the panel want more information on or whether there are any areas of concern, aim to address these in a concise manner.

Remember to maintain eye contact as you shake hands with each interviewer when leaving.

Yes you have guessed it, keep smiling.

Guest post from JobClub@N21
JobClub@N21 was formed in 2014 to fulfill the needs of job seekers & employers, we are based in North London.

We support and coach people returning back to work, finding their first job or looking to change jobs. We also work with students on career counseling. Our approach is based on providing support and mentoring either on a personal or group basis. We are run by volunteers with years of experience in the recruitment market and senior management roles. We all want to give something back to the wider community and although our services are free of charge we do not compromise on quality.

Need help or support? Contact us at
Follow us on Twitter @JobClubN21

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