Panel interviews are a contrast to a one-on-one job interview. Rather than meeting with one hiring manager, you meet with a committee or team of interviewers. The size of the group may range from three to 12 or so members. The purpose of a panel job interview is for the employer to get a sense for how you function within a group or team and to allow for multiple viewpoints in the hiring decision.
Panel interviews can make job candidates nervous or uncomfortable. This often has to do with uncertainty about the number of interviewers and the process. You may be able to put your mind at ease a bit by gaining more insight. Call the company's human resources department and ask if you can have more information about the number of interviewers, size of the room and structure of the interview. In some cases, these details are included in calls or letters before your interview. Often, though, the company is willing to provide this information, but doesn't proactively do so.
Be a Team Player
A key reason companies use an interview panel is to gauge your ability to communicate well in a group. This is common if you will work as part of a team in the organization. The hiring committee often includes a supervisor and potential team members. With this in mind, engage each participant throughout. Following a panelist's question, move your eye contact around to each participant. To finish your answer, though, come back to the original presenter of the question. Showing you can effectively engage and get attention from several team members is part of making the sale in a group interview.
An additional motive of a team interview is to gauge your poise under pressure from constant questions from different directions. In fact, the University of Delaware panel interview guide specifically notes that employers want you to face the "firing squad of rapid questions." To prepare, you might find a few friends or peers to go through some mock interview preparation. Give them some questions you expect to hear and have them ask you in rotation. While you will likely be comfortable with your friends, focus on your posture, finding a relaxed seating position and communicating with each person.
Similar to a one-on-one interview, you usually get a chance to ask questions in the end. This is a chance for you to really show your personal charisma and to gain favor with panelists. If possible, ask a targeted question of each person based on your understanding of their role or related to one of the questions posed. You may have a few moments before the interview, but this time at the end may be your best chance to concentrate on building rapport and showing your personality. As you wrap up, acknowledge each person by name as you shake hands and look them in the eyes.
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