A panel interview is simply an interview where a group or panel of interviewers interviews a prospective employee at the same time. Different from standard one-on-one interviews, panel interviews have more than interviewers and are interviewing only one candidate at a time.
Because panel interviews are long and expensive, these interviews are typically given to candidates who are filling in a very important job description in the company.
This panel is typically made up of the board of directors of the company, or a fraction of it. However, the company policies determine who can sit in on a panel interview. In most situations, the panel is made of the candidate's direct supervisor, a human resource manager, and some key employees of the firm that the hired new candidate will interact with most.
However, for most first-time panel interviewees, the experience can be daunting. The nervousness of every looking at you combined with the usual anxiety around public speaking can make even the best candidates very uneasy.
While everyone in the panel will ask you questions regarding their particular field, the individual you will be interacting with (your line manager) will be running the interview and asking you the bulk of the questions.
These interviews can be up to an hour-long, so make sure you have taken that time out to give this interview.
Organizations use panel interviews to save time, reach a consensus, observe how applicants perform in social situations, and assess candidates' abilities to manage high-pressure conditions.
The most logical reason for a company to conduct panel interviews is to save time. Recruiting managers generally conduct many panel interviews in a single day, and the panel decides by the end of the day.
The convenience of panel interviews is also advantageous to the candidate. Instead of coming in many times and talking with multiple company employees one-on-one, you complete all of your interviews in a single session.
When all the decision-makers are in the same room, choosing the candidate becomes easier. Instead of exhausting the HR department trying to get everyone on board, it is easier for each panelist to list what they liked or disliked most about the candidates. Panel interviews help the key decision-makers have a say in whom the final employee hired should be.
Furthermore, interviewees can meet their team before they even start at a company, see what the group dynamics look like, and extrapolate it to see how they will fit into the company.
In a panel interview, you must interact with people with different personalities and areas of expertise. Interviewers want to see that you can answer inquiries from your line manager and technical questions from your tech lead at the company.
The panel members can analyze how you'd fit into a company by watching how you engage and interact with the different members on the panel.
As mentioned above, your panel will most likely consist of the hiring manager, the line manager you'll be working under, team leads from the departments you will interact with, and a possible member of the board. The panel's composition can have slight differences depending on the company and the role you are being hired for.
You can find out beforehand who your panel members are and be prepared in advance.
When the panel introduces themselves to you, try to memorize their names. Before you go into the interview, try to learn a little about each panel member, such as their past work history or any unique interests or hobbies they might have. It's all good to slip in your knowledge of any successful initiatives the panel has been a part of in the past.
LinkedIn is perfect for this kind of research. Remember to not come off as someone who knows too much about each panel member. It's good to strike a balance.
A common error made by panel interviews is to address only one member in the room. Just because a certain panel member is asking most of the questions does not mean that they should be the only one being talked to.
Acknowledge other panel members by smiling towards them and making light eye contact, even if you answer someone else's question.
All panelists will already have your portfolio at hand, but it won't harm to bring extra copies to hand out. Bring a handful of business cards and any other materials you believe will be useful during the interview.
This will help show them how resourceful you are and proactive too. First impressions can last a long time, and your ability to plan ahead of time is going to impress them.
Although panel interviews can seem intimidating (and they are), they can also be a fantastic way to learn about a company's culture and dynamics while also impressing an entire panel of interviewers at once. As with individual interviews, the goal is to do your research ahead of time and practice your responses so that you can easily answer questions as they come.
If you can, try to prepare an end-of-interview question for each person. Because the panel will go through many interviews at once, giving each individual attention will help you create a lasting impression.
Also, remember to send out a thank-you email or message to everyone who took part in the interview afterward. It can go a long way to show the panel just how enthusiastic you are about joining their team.