Successfully Managing a Panel Interview

by Stacie Garlieb, Successful Impressions
Panel interviewing is becoming more common and has some unique characteristics to challenge even the most capable interview candidate.  Companies use panels, or groups, to interview for a few different reasons.  This format allows the organization to have several people evaluate skills at the same time, hearing the same response to questions.  Panels also provide an opportunity for the hiring team to immediately gain consensus on the candidate’s qualifications right after the interviews, because they are already in the same room.
As a candidate in the interview process, the thought of having a group of people evaluating you all at once can be a bit overwhelming.  With proper preparation and execution, these interviews can actually be easier than one-on-one interviews.  Once you know you have the interview:
·      Call to confirm and know your environment.  The day before, call whoever scheduled the interview with you and ask who will be interviewing and what their role is in the organization. 
·      Bring copies of your resume for everyone.  Anticipate that there may be an additional person or two who decides to sit in on your interview, so have extra copies too.
·      Prepare answers based on the audience.  Once you know who will be in the room, think about what questions each of those people may want to know about your skills and how the job relates to their position and department. 
·      Develop questions to ask at the end of the interview that are relevant.  Asking a panel ‘What path did you take in the organization to be in your current role?’ would not be very effective since each person may want to answer.  Target your questions to a specific member of the panel or have a general question, such as ‘What are the top three objectives for this position in the first 90 days?’ where the appropriate person on the panel can answer.
Successfully execute the interview by:
·      Entering the room with the highest level of professionalism.  If you were meeting with just one person, you would introduce yourself and shake their hand.  Doing this with each person in a panel interview shows your confidence and business acumen.
·      Answering with ‘shared’ eye contact.  No one likes to be in a group conversation where two people seem like they are ignoring the rest of the group.  Look at each interviewer as you answer questions so no one feels excluded.
·      Ending your answers where you start them.  As you finish your answer, look at the person who asked the question.  This lets them know you are ready to answer any follow up question they may have to your answer.
·      Leaving the way you came in.  Once the interview ends, shake each person’s hand and thank them for their time.
Candidates who prepare for the environment and stay focused during the interview will jump far ahead of the competition in the panel interview phase. 
Stacie Garlieb is the President of Successful Impressions, LLC which assists students and working professionals with career search processes and skills. For more information about the resources her company provides including helpful books and resources to guide you through building your resume and your job search, go to www.successfulimpressions.net and www.bestresumebuilder.com.