You walk into an interview, ready to impress the person in front of you… and suddenly, you realize that instead of one person, you are actually looking at a conference table with anywhere from three to a dozen faces. Panic sets in. Welcome to your panel interview.
While a panel interview might seem terrifying, keep in mind that its purpose is not to intimidate you; more likely, it is done to save the company time and see how you interact in a group setting. Here are a few tips to help you survive:
- Avoid surprises. If you have an interview scheduled, ask your point of contact to provide an agenda, if possible, and the names and titles of everyone you will be meeting. Hopefully, this will clue you in ahead of time on whether your interview will involve a panel.
- Connect with panelists individually. Panel interviews can make it harder to build individual rapport with your interviewers. When one of them asks you a question, try to spend at least 50% of your answer focused on them, through your eye contact and body language.
- Make it a conversation. It can feel harder to interject questions back when there are so many people all asking you questions, but to the degree that you can, try to get a dialogue going (and use the panelists names, if possible). If you are able to ask questions that prompt a group conversation, you will have a better sense of the office’s interpersonal dynamic, and you will help the interviewers better perceive you as part of the team.
- Follow up — with every single interviewer. It is critical to follow up after any interview. But just because you met four or five people at once does not mean that you can get away with a single Thank You note for all of them. Write to each of them individually, and if possible, try to reference something specific they said, to show you were paying attention to them.
Ultimately, you should look on the bright side: if multiple people have found time to gather at the same time to interview you, it probably means they are considering your candidacy very seriously.