Panel Interviews

If you are fortunate to obtain an interview, preparation is key.   On the average, there are hundreds to thousands of resumes posted for each job opening.  The selection to interview for a position based on the number of resumes is usually about 1%.

It is the interview that secures the job!  It is your job during the interview to a) convince the employer that your skill set matches the job advertisement, b) learn more about the job and the company, and c) exhibit your personality.  From the company’s perspective, it is an opportunity to a) verify that your skill set matches the job advertisement, b) evaluate your experience and knowledge, and c) decide whether your personality will fit the organization’s culture.

There are two types of employment interviews:  screening interviews and hiring/placement interviews.  One type of hiring/placement interview is a panel interview.  A panel interview is composed of two-to-many people interviewing one candidate.  One-to-many interviewers will ask questions to the interviewee.  This type of interview is challenging because our basic relationship instincts work against us rather than for us.  To make a good impression on panel interviews a positive one, follow these tips:

  • As you enter the interview room, the interviewers are usually seated around a table.  Take the time to make eye contact, shake each interviewer’s hand and introduce yourself.
  • Have a copy of your resume and cover letter available for each person.  Also, a hard-copy list of references is an added option.
  • Have a notepad available to jot down each person’s name as they introduce themselves.  There is no need to keep a secret that you are writing their names down just in case you need them.  Most people have difficulty remembering people’s names for the first time.  In fact, if you can use the interviewers’ names during the interview, that is a plus.
  • When answering questions, make eye-contact with each person, not just the person asking the question.  You want to engage all participants in the question and answer process.  In fact, not all people seated at the table have to ask a question.  Be aware of the quiet ones!  He/she is probably the decision maker.
  • The group atmosphere depends on your demeanor.  Relax when answering questions, have a sense of humor, and take your time.  Telling stories when answering questions is the best way to engage and keep the entire audience’s attention.
  • Treat panel interviews as you would one-on-one interviews:  be prepared, sell your qualifications, show your personality, demonstrate your knowledge of your field and the company, and be enthusiastic.
  • Before you leave, close the interview by addressing the group of interviewers and acknowledge each person through eye-contact.  State you are interested in the position or you want the job.  Mention what you can bring to the job by emphasizing the skills and experience the position requires.  Ask about the next step in the process and the decision date.
  • Finally, remember to collect business cards from all interviewers.  A thank you email or note to each interviewer is expected.

To calm nerves prior to an interview, remind yourself that you are evaluating the interviewers as much as they are evaluating you.  Remember, not all dates result in a marriage proposal, and not all interviews result in a job offer. Is it a good match?  That’s the fundamental question to be answered.

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