How to Survive a Panel Interview

It is becoming increasingly common for job seekers to meet with panels of three or more decision makers in one interview.

Over the past year I have noticed a growing trend toward panel or group interviews. It is becoming increasingly common for job seekers to meet with panels of three or more decision makers in one interview. Many job seekers approach panel interviews with trepidation. But with a bit of preparation, it can be a very efficient and rewarding process. Here are a few tips on how to survive a panel interview.

  1. Focus on the positive aspects of the panel interview. A panel interview is like any other interview, but with a larger audience. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that “all eyes are on you.” Instead, try to think of the efficiencies that the panel interview affords you. Candidates who participate in panel interviews generally go through fewer rounds of interviews before the hiring decision is made. A panel interview decreases the likelihood that you will be asked redundant questions by different interviewers and gives you less need to “recycle” your interview strategy at multiple meetings.
  2. Pay extra attention to the details. Arriving late to an interview or showing up with mismatched socks is bad enough during a one-on-one interview. These errors in judgment will certainly be magnified if they are observed by a panel of interviewers at the same point in time.
  3. When you meet each person on the panel, ask for a business card. Before the interview begins, place the cards in front of you and facing in the direction of the appropriate person to help you remember the names of the people you are interviewing with. Refer to each person by name during the conversation to personalize your responses and build rapport with the group.
  4. Don’t assume that the most senior person is the decision maker. Frequently business leaders rely on their team to help make decisions about candidates; be sure to include everyone in the conversation. If one person in the group asks you a question, begin your answer by responding to that person, but then make eye contact with the others to build rapport with everyone in the room.
  5. Try to size up the agenda of everyone in the group. The needs of the marketing, operations, and sales teams will be different, so make sure you can showcase stories of success that will resonate with the different business heads you are interviewing with.
  6. Be cognizant of the group dynamic. The panel interview gives you a better idea of how the group interacts and works as a team. These subtle but important cues are often missed during one on one interviews. Observing the group dynamic during the interview phase may help you make better decisions about the company culture and how well you would fit in with the team.
  7. Send everyone in the group a thank you letter and make sure each letter is unique. The thank you letter is a great tool for reconnecting with the hiring team, but, in order to be seen as authentic, you need to communicate your thanks to each person individually and avoid redundant content. Try to focus on one key point of exchange with each person you interviewed with.

It’s a bit of extra work to mind multiple decision makers, but in the long run it’s worth it. You’re on your way to landing your next position in less time, with equal effort.