How To: Master Panel Interviews

By Career Savvy

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The thought of facing a team of interviewers can be extremely daunting – after all, facing one is intimidating enough! However, it’s important to realise that this form of interview is not used by employers to instil fear. The reality is, it helps the employer to save time in terms of introducing you to key members of the team you’d be working with if successful, as well as obtaining their opinions of you straightaway. Here are five top tips to help you master a panel interview.

Know what to expect.
There’s nothing worse than turning up for an interview and being faced with something you weren’t expecting. This is why it’s important to respond and clarify exactly what the interview is going to be like once you receive your invite. If your invitation doesn’t include details on how long it will last and who will be present, then it’s worth asking these questions in your ‘thank you for your consideration’ response. If you can find out exactly who your assessors will be then this will seriously benefit you on the day, as you will know what to expect, thus helping to calm your nerves. The more you know about your interview, the easier it will be to prepare your answers.

Acknowledge each assessor.
If you’re not already aware of the names of your interviewers then make sure you find them out now and as you introduce yourself, look each one in the eye. This will help you to connect with each assessor and addressing them by name will help the interview to feel more relaxed, like a conversation. When someone asks you a question you should look at each interviewer as you give your answer, returning your gaze to whoever asked you the question as you finish your response. Similarly, when you ask a question, make sure you pose this to each member of the panel. This will help you to form a bond with the team, show your confidence and it adds conviction to what you’re saying.

Win over the ‘hard nut’ interviewer.
In a panel interview there are always going to be people you connect better with than others. Some will already be rooting for you whereas others may still need convincing. It’s tempting to concentrate on the assessor that is the friendliest or seems to be in your favour, but it’s much more worthwhile to focus your attention on anyone who appears unconvinced. If you manage to win them over, you will evidence your problem-solving skills as well as your talent in terms of understanding your audience. Furthermore, when the assessors convene to discuss you after the interview and the ‘hard nut’ is rooting for you, you’re likely to succeed as the others will probably follow suit.

Prepare for a humdinger question.
With the support of their peers behind them, your interviewers will likely feel more confident to ask bold/blunt questions – ones that perhaps would have been avoided in a one-on-one interview. If there are any awkward questions that you already know would unnerve you (gaps in your CV, reason for leaving last job, etc.), then be sure to practise your response in advance as this is likely to be the nature of the humdinger question. It will not only help you to answer the question efficiently if/when it does come up, but it will also make any other curveballs easier to handle.

Thank everyone involved.
As you did at the start of the interview, address each person before you leave, thanking each person individually preferably by name. If possible it would also be very beneficial to collect the business cards of your assessors for future contacts. In addition, if you send a thank you email after your interview (and we suggest you do) either send individual emails or make sure you mention everyone’s name in the email you send to your main contact.

So remember, your assessors are there to find out more about you and whether you’re going to both do a good job and fit in with the team – NOT to intimidate you. Try to see it as a positive rather than a negative and use it to your advantage.


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