How to Prepare for a Panel Interview

You applied to a role, made it through the first stage with the recruiter (me!) and then find out you’re being moved to the next stage of the interview process which will be a panel interview. The idea of being interviewed by a group of people is enough to make anyone sweat.

What is a Panel Interview?

A panel interview is an interview with a hiring team, usually made up of the Hiring Manager plus any other relevant stakeholders or decision makers, and sometimes HR. Panel interviews are usually made up of between 2 and 5 people.

Why a Panel Interview?

Panel interviews can be extremely effective, namely because they save time for everyone by reducing the amount of interview rounds. They’re a more agile way of hiring and can speed up the process tenfold. Through including additional panel members, the hiring manager can gain more perspective on the candidate and it also reduces the risk of making a bad hire. On the flip side, it’s also an opportunity for the candidate to get a sense of who they’ll be working with as well as a feel for the company culture by meeting with multiple people.

As with any interview, preparation is key.

Research and Know Your Audience

Before any interview you should research the company to get a feel for their culture, vision and any recent news or activity. Being able to demonstrate in an interview that you’ve done your research on the company also shows the interviewers that you’re truly interested in that specific company and not just in finding employment. Additionally, research the panel members through a quick search on LinkedIn to learn more about who you’ll be meeting with and gain some context.

Bring Your Resume

Depending on how prepared the panel is, they may or may not already have your resume printed and prepped to meet with you. As a precaution (and to show how prepared you are) it’s always good to bring enough copies of your resume for everyone on the panel.

Prepare Examples

Before your interview, review the job description again. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions the panel will ask you based on the qualifications of the role and build out some strong examples. You’ll not only refamiliarize yourself with the role expectations which is important, but you’ll have great examples ready to draw on in the interview and hopefully relieve some nerves. 

Connect with Everyone

By this, I mean make sure you talk to everyone and make eye contact with everyone at some point in the interview. I’ve been a part of many panel interviews where the candidate is not inclusive of everyone in the room and intentionally or unintentionally focuses their attention only on the hiring manager.

Be Authentic

Interviews are where you can show your personality and build relationships with the hiring team. We love to meet with candidates and feel like we got a sense of their authentic selves whether it was through their humor, something bold they wore, their body language, or even a really strong work example they provided that demonstrated a quality we look for.

Come Prepared with Questions

Always come prepared with a few thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview. They’re a great way to differentiate yourself through crafting questions that show the panel your interest, your knowledge in the space and your ability to make connections. For a panel interview, think of a question that you would want to ask each panel member so that the Q&A is not just a conversation between yourself and the hiring manager.

Thank You Notes

Lastly, thank you notes through email go a long way and you would be surprised how underutilized they are. Briefly thank the panel for their time, reiterate your interest in the role, and let them know you’re looking forward to next steps in the process. If you don’t have the email addresses of the panel members you can reach out to the recruiter for their contact information or send the thank you note to the recruiter to please forward to the panel for their time.

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