Handle Panel Interviews Like A Pro

Handle Panel Interviews Like A Pro

Panel interviews … interviews involving three or more people from the same or multiple departments … can add a layer of complexity to your meetings with hiring companies.

Fortunately there are steps you can take to shine no matter how many people are involved in the proceedings. Here’s how:

Before the meeting

  • Learn how many people will attend and their names, the spelling of their names and job titles. Request this information from the meeting coordinator.
  • Determine the areas of focus of participants and their hot button issues. Find such information on LinkedIn, Google or the company web site. Particularly look for news stories about their activities and work efforts.
  • Search for their pictures on LinkedIn, Google or the company web site. Create a study document with their pictures, names and titles.
  • Discover how you are connected to panelists on LinkedIn. If you are a 2nd degree connection to a person, ask your mutual connection about the panelist and if he or she will put in a good word for you to the person.
  • Bring enough copies of your resume for all participants in case they are not provided a copy. Review your resume in case panelists fire questions at you about your background. Consider developing a leave-behind portfolio for each participant.
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Just prior to the meeting

  • Shake hands. Introduce yourself to people, calling those you recognize from their picture by name. This lets them know that you did research about them.
  • Mention mutual acquaintances and how you know them and nice comments your friend said about individual panelists.
  • Build rapport with each person by being genuine, interested, and when possible, by showing you are a friend of a friend.

During the meeting

  • Bring a notepad and pen to jot down the people’s names in order of how they sit around the room.
  • Follow the same wise advice as you would for individual interviews (sit properly, keep your energy level high, answer questions well, etc.)
  • Build a positive relationship with the group as well as with individual interviewers.
  • Gauge who the leaders and followers are in the room and what the agenda (needs, challenges, and fears) is for each of the attendees to respond most effectively.
  • Be diplomatic in your responses so as not to offend one person (who may have one agenda) when trying to impress another person with a different agenda.
  • Address each person’s hot button issues in positive/impressive ways.
  • When one panelist asks a question, respond to him or her, then make eye contact with others as you answer, then return attention to the questioner.
  • Politely reference your response if a similar question is asked again. Example: “To expand on my earlier response to Janine about my work ethic, I enjoy working hard, particularly with a team and try to find a good work / life balance when I can.”
  • Speak loudly enough to be heard around the room or at an appropriate level if there is a microphone. Keep answers brief and interesting for all attendees.
  • Consciously seek to spend equal time looking at and responding to all panelists.
  • Have questions in mind that you can ask each interviewer.
  • Note the group’s dynamics. What type of interaction do they have? How do they get along? Who seems difficult? Consider how you might fit in with them and the company ID88.
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Follow Up

  • Shake hands with each participant (or at least verbally acknowledge each person), thanking individuals and calling them by name.
  • Ask for business cards, particularly from people for whom you hadn’t received/learned advanced information.
  • Jot down notes about each panelist (including the questions each asked and the work issues/concern areas about you that seemed important to each person) to help you write targeted, individual thank you messages. Assure each person that, if hired, you look forward to working with him/her to accomplish specific needs of his/her department (as specified in the job description).
  • Seek opportunities to continue building relationships with the panelists.

What other tips or questions do you have about panel interviews? Share them via the Contact Us or on the LinkedIn discussion board that might have brought you here.