Once the recruiter shares the news that you're being interviewed by a panel, your anxiety level might increase tenfold. But panel interviews don't have to be intimidating, even for a supervisory role. View a panel interview as three to five chances to make a favorable impression, because that's usually the number of interviewers who participate on these types of interviews. Every interviewer has a different perspective, so if your answers don't wow one of the interviewers, you still have a chance to appeal to other panel members.
At the first notice of a panel interview -- whether it's from the recruiter scheduling the event, the hiring manager or what you learned through your research about the company -- prepare for questions from at least three interviewers. When the recruiter contacts you to schedule the interview, if she doesn't specifically state whether it's a panel interview, ask. For example, you could ask, "Is this a one-on-one interview or a panel interview?" Typically, recruiters or schedulers will let candidates know whether they're going to have a one-on-one with the hiring manager or to expect other interviewers in on the process.
Conduct research on the company and the people with whom you'll be interviewing. If you don't already know their names or departments, look at the job posting and surmise from the job duties who might be participating in your interview. For example, if you're interviewing to become the company's next sales supervisor, it's possible that the shipping manager or supervisor will be a member of the panel, as well as the customer service manager. In case there's a nonsupervisory staff member who's going to be a panel member, research the employee base and what constitutes the company's workforce.
Rehearse Interview Responses
Smart interviewees rehearse their responses to questions they expect for a one-on-one interview. But it's even more important to rehearse your answers when you're facing several people who will be evaluating your qualifications from different perspectives. Obtain a list of interview questions and practice your answers as if you're speaking to three to five interviewers. That means making eye contact with every person you direct your response to and giving equal time to each panel member. For this exercise, you'll simply have to pretend that you're talking to a group, unless you have three to five colleagues who will help you prepare. Because convening a group of friends to role play a panel interview with you might be a challenge, the alternative is to practice in front of your webcam. Record your rehearsals and playback the recording to see if you're dividing your attention equally among a pretend panel.
You'll naturally want to stress your capabilities as a leader because you're interviewing for a supervisory role, but don't neglect your role as an employee advocate. Supervisors and managers have two primary duties: managing department operations and managing people. Articulate your ability to do both, even if you have to explicitly state that's how you see your role. For example, you could say, "As a supervisor for XYZ Company, I see my role as twofold. Supervising the department operations is one and supervising employees is another. I'm confident my qualifications are suitable for both responsibilities."
Positive interviews usually end with the interviewer turning the tables to ask if you -- the job seeker -- have any questions. Your answer to the question, "Do you have any questions for us?" should always be, "Yes, I do." During your interview, note the interviewers' names so you can address them personally. And ask each one a question or ask any of them to volunteer an answer without you specifically directing a question toward a certain panel member. In fact, you could pose a general question and get varied perspectives by asking all of the panel members to provide an answer. Your questions should be related to supervisory duties and the employer-employee relations. For example, you could ask, "Are supervisors first responders in cases of employee relations matters?" and "What are your biggest challenges as a leader with XYZ Company?"
- American Academy for the Advancement of Science: How to Prepare for and Succeed at Panel Interviews
- AARP: Employers and Interviews
- HR World: The Interviewing Cheat Sheet: 100 Resources for Interviewers and Candidates
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Natural Resources Management Gateway: Supervisor Job Interview Questions
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