How to Win in a Panel Interview: Tips, Questions & Answers

Panel Interview
Created by Cake

A panel interview is where you are interviewed by a group of people instead of just one. Panel interviews can be as intense as they are intimidating. After all, it's not just one person you have to impress, but several.

When preparing for a panel job interview, candidates can face a number of unique challenges. First and foremost, panel interviews tend to be more formal than other types of interviews. In addition, panel interviews often involve multiple interviewers who each have their own set of questions and expectations. The format also sometimes makes it more difficult for candidates to establish strong rapport with individual panelists, as they are forced to focus on different people at different times.

In this article, we will discuss what panel interviews are, the key steps to succeed in them, and tips for virtual panel interviews. We will also look at some common questions that panel interviewers may ask, as well as effective questions you can ask to impress your panelists.

What Is a Panel Interview

Before you kickstart your panel interview preparation, it is important to first understand what panel interviews are so you know what to expect.

❓ What does a panel interview really mean

A panel interview is a type of job interview in which several people are interviewing a candidate at the same time. 

The panel usually has a mix of people from different areas of the company, such as human resources, marketing, sales, or any other department that is highly involved in the hiring process. 

Panel interviews can be conducted either in-person or over video, for example, via phone, web conference tools such as Zoom or Google Meet, etc.

❓ Difference between a panel interview and a group interview

Technically speaking, panel interview is a form of group interview. However, group interviews generally refer to interviews in which multiple applicants are interviewed by only one or two people, whereas panel interviews usually mean several members of the hiring team interviewing one applicant.

The strategy for preparing for panel interviews is drastically different from preparing for group interviews: in group interviews you should focus on standing out amongst your peers, but in panel interviews you should focus on connecting with each panel member and impressing them as a whole.

How to Succeed in a Panel Interview

Now that you have an idea of what a panel interview is, let's go through the steps that you need to take in order to succeed in one.

🎯 Learn who your interviewers are. 

When you are preparing for a panel interview, the first step is to learn who your interviewers will be. This information can usually be found on the company's website or through a recruiter. Having a list of panel members will allow you to tailor your responses to their individual backgrounds and areas of expertise.

🎯 Research and remember your interviewers.

This is one of the most important steps of your panel interview preparation. Do some research on each panel member so that you have a better understanding of their backgrounds, roles within the company, and what they might be looking for in a candidate. This will help you formulate your responses to questions and tailor them to each interviewer.

🎯 Engage with each interviewer equally.

In panel interviews, it can be easy to focus on one or two panel members and ignore the others. However, this is not a good strategy if you want to leave a strong impression on each interviewer and succeed in your panel interview. 

Instead, make an effort to engage with each panel member equally so that they all know you are taking them seriously and are able to form their own opinions of you.

🎯 Prepare for interview questions and follow-up questions.

Panel interviews offer panelists the opportunity to ask more in-depth interview questions, as well as follow-up questions that can get at deeper issues. 

As a result, you need to be prepared for panel interview questions by brainstorming answers to common interview questions, as well as preparing for follow-up questions that panel members might ask.

🎯 Ask good questions.

It's important to remember that panel style interviews not only involve you answering questions. Before leaving the interview, make sure to ask panel members good questions about the company and its culture, the role and its responsibilities, and anything else that is important to you so that they can see your enthusiasm in the position.

🎯 Pay attention to your body language.

In panel interviews, multiple interviewers will focus their attention on you and you alone. Compared to group interviews or one-on-one job interviews, you will be scrutinized more closely, so it's important to pay attention to your body language. 

Make sure you are making eye contact, sitting up straight, and avoid fidgeting, as these small details can have a big impact on how panel members perceive you.

🎯 Control the pace of the conversation.

A panel interview can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. It is important to control the pace so you can strategically get through all the panel members' questions, as well as ensure that you have enough time to respond to each panel member's concerns. This is to make sure you don't get overwhelmed or have panel members getting bored.

Virtual Panel Interview Tips

If you're joining a panel interview remotely, there are a few extra things to keep in mind in order to make sure your panel interview goes smoothly. Here are top 5 tips to keep in mind when preparing for an online panel interview:

✅ Test out your equipment and internet connection in advance.

This is basic courtesy and will help avoid any technical difficulties during your panel interview. The last thing you want for your panel interview is to be interrupted by a spotty internet and leave several panel members waiting.

✅ Set up backup internet connections.

As a backup, set up another internet connection such as a mobile hotspot so that you can continue with your panel interview even if your primary connection fails.

✅ Stay engaged.

In panel interviews, panel members are often looking for candidates who can be actively engaged in the conversation and contribute to the discussion. As a virtual panel interviewee, make sure your body language is clear so that panel members know you're as engaged as if you were sitting right next to them.

✅ Choose an appropriate background.

Since panel members will be able to see you and your surroundings during a virtual panel interview, make sure to choose a background that is appropriate and professional.

 Avoid any distractions such as children or pets that might show up during your panel interview. We recommend having separate Zoom or Google Meet accounts for the panel interview and other professional meetings so your saved background is always professional and panel interview-ready.

✅ Avoid constantly looking at yourself on screen.

If you're new to video panel interviews, you might be nervous about how you look and sound on camera. While it's important to be aware of your appearance and make sure you're looking presentable, try to avoid constantly looking at yourself on screen. 

It can be distracting and make it difficult for you to pay attention to the panel interview. If you need to, set up your camera at eye level and make sure you're looking directly into your panel members' eyes, rather than at yourself on the screen.

Panel Interview Questions and Answers

Some common questions you might be asked during a panel interview are:

🔍 Please start off by telling us about yourself.

Sample answer: "Sure. I'm currently a marketing manager at XYZ Company with 8 years of agency experience in the healthcare and SaaS niche. In my role, I have worked with a variety of clients and projects across different industries, which has given me a solid foundation in the fundamentals of marketing. I am also a certified project manager and have experience leading teams of up to 10 people. I am confident in my ability to manage projects from start to finish and have a track record of delivering successful results."

🔍 Why are you interested in the job?

Sample answer: "I am excited about the opportunity to join your team because I believe that my skills and experience are a perfect match for the role. In particular, I am passionate about using marketing data and insights to drive strategic decision making, which is something that resonates strongly with XYZ Company's mission and values."

🔍 What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Sample answer: "I would say that my greatest strength is my ability to think critically and solve problems quickly. My main weakness is that I can sometimes be overly ambitious and take on too many responsibilities at once, which can lead to overextending myself and not being able to focus enough attention on each task. However, I am always willing to learn from my mistakes and work to improve in this area."

🔍 What are your immediate and long-term career goals?

Sample answer: "In the short term, I am looking for an opportunity to learn and grow in a new role with more responsibility. In the long term, I am interested in continuing to develop my skills so that I can eventually take on a leadership position within a marketing team. "

Aside from preparing for common interview questions in topics such as leadership, professional experience, and personal career development goals, panel interviewees should also come up with good questions to ask their interviewers to showcase critical thinking skills. 

5 good questions to ask during a panel interview:

  • How would you describe the company's culture?
  • What are some of the team's goals for the next five years?
  • What was the most successful project the team worked on last year?
  • How has the company been affected by recent events (e.g. COVID-19, political unrest)?
  • Can you tell me more about the team I would be working in?

🔑 Key takeaways:

We've walked you through what panel interviews are, how to prepare for them and some common questions you might be asked during one. With sufficient preparation, panel interviews can be a great opportunity to show off your skills and qualifications, so use these tips to help you succeed in your next panel interview!

With Cake’s resume builder tool, resume templates and resume examples, you could showcase your best qualifications to land your dream job. Try making a resume online (free download) now!

--- Originally written by Candy Ho ---

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