Have a panel interview lined-up? Here's how to have the interviewers at "Hello" and build a rapport.
If you start getting mini heart palpitations during a one-on-one interview, you can only imagine your reaction when your potential interviewer tells you that you’ll be interviewed by multiple people.
Being outnumbered is downright nerve wrecking, especially if you’re a graduate interviewing for the first time. Although we can’t tell you how you can avoid a panel interview, we can give you tips on how to prepare yourself and build a rapport with your potential employer.
Know who will be present
A panel interview typically includes people from different departments of the company. As a representative of each department, each interviewer will screen you differently. For example, if you’re interviewing at a tech company for a web developer role, your panel will probably be made up of the department manager, someone from HR and team leads from one or two departments, which you’ll probably work closely with.
As the panel will represent different departments, each one will be interested in different aspects of your CV. So to make sure that you’re fully prepared for each interviewer, try to find out who you’ll be dealing with. One easy way to find out who’s who, is to simply ask the company contact who you can expect to meet on the day of the interview.
Another way is to pay undivided attention during the initial introductions of the interview. You’ll have to recall and refer to each interviewer by name. However, if you’ve got a memory of a goldfish, carry a pen and paper and rather ask if you can take down notes.
Modify your communication style
One of the golden rules of acing a panel interview is engaging with each individual. While in an individual interview you answer directly to the person who’s asking you the questions, in a panel interview you need to acknowledge each person.
But no stress, once you have knowledge of who your interviewers are, it’ll be easier to answer their questions and build a rapport. During the interview answer each interviewer directly, and then connect with each interviewee by elaborating on your points.
Remember that everyone is there to see how you’ll fit into their work life, so don’t make the mistake of focusing on one panelist, even if they are doing most of the talking. As with any interview, maintaining eye contact is key. If you make a point of including everyone in the conversation, they’ll take note of your interpersonal skills, and your rapport will shoot up.
The same goes for your body language too. As you elaborate on an answer, turn your shoulders so that you’re squarely facing each interviewer.
Adjust how you ask questions at the end of the interview
Apart from minding how you interact with the interviewers, it’s important to come prepared with a number of questions, as you would with a one-on-one interview. Due to multiple panelists, it’ll be important for you to engage each one when you’re the one doing the questioning.
For example, if an interviewer asks you about the company’s competitors, see of you can relate one of your questions to what was discussed during the interview. You may follow up the question with something such as, “Can each of you tell me what you think are the major threats to your company’s growth?”
As you may already know, no interview goes without a thank you note. In this case, you’ll have to send a personalized thank you note to each interviewer.
Keep these tips handy, and you should have no problem acing the panel interview. The interview will be long and exhausting, but you’ll be extremely proud of the work you put in, especially if the hiring manager rings to tell you, “You’re hired”.