How to smash the panel interview process

Have you landed yourself a panel interview for that job you’ve had your eye on? First of all, congratulations. Second, it’s time to start preparing. Luckily for you, YoungCapital is here to walk you through the whole panel interview process and what you need to know. You’ll get the lowdown on what happens during a panel interview, why they can be good and bad, and how you can get through it successfully. There’s no need to stress about what’s to come; just read through this page, follow our tips and tricks, and you’ll be a panel interview expert in no time.

What happens during the panel interview process?

Are you wondering what the meaning of ‘panel interview’ is? Good thing we’re here to explain it. A panel interview simply means you’re being interviewed by two or more people at once. It usually has a variety of people, either of different levels (managers, team leads, HR rep) or different departments.

There are lots of different types of interviews, but the process of a panel interview is pretty similar to a regular one-on-one setting. You’ll be asked questions about your skills and experience, and what you can bring to the job. The only difference is that you’ll be asked these interview questions by a panel of multiple people, who have different backgrounds and areas of expertise.

A panel interview is not to be confused with a group interview. In a group interview, you’re being questioned alongside a bunch of other candidates, all at the same time. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of a panel interview, where there are more interviewers than interviewees. While they take on opposite formats, panel and group (or team) interviews can use the same tips and tricks – it’s all about impressing your future employer, after all!

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Panel interview pros and cons

You might think it’s odd to have a group of interviewers asking you lots of questions at once, but there are good reasons for it. And, while it may seem like it’s only a positive for the company, it can also be beneficial to you as a candidate. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of panel interviews:

Pros of a panel interview

  • It’s more efficient, since a lot of companies need multiple rounds of interviews to ask you questions from different angles. Having one round with a variety of interviewers saves time and effort.
  • They get to see how you interact with a bigger group. It’s unlikely that you’ll be working totally solo in the job you’re applying for. You’re probably going to be put in a team, so it’s good for them to see how you deal with lots of voices and personalities.
  • The panel interview process is usually shorter than normal ones. You won’t have to deal with as many rounds of prepping for interviews, dressing in your fancy clothes, and waiting by the phone. Getting it all over and done with in one go can be a huge stress-saver.

Cons of a panel interview

  • It can be overwhelming and a little bit scary sitting in front of a group of professional-looking experts. You might get a bit rocked and be thrown off your game (but that’s totally normal, and very common – interviewers will understand).
  • More people interviewing you means there’ll be more questions to be asked. That means you’re probably going to have less time to ask your own panel interview questions. They should still give you the chance, so pick your top three most important ones and stick with those.
  • In a standard setting, your interviewer may need time between questions to make notes and prepare themselves. When there are multiple people asking questions, you don’t always get this little pause. You need to be prepared to handle back-to-back questions with immediate follow-up.

The pros and cons of panel interviews are pretty subjective; what works for one person might not work for another. You might be the type to prefer phone interviews or virtual interviews (which can also be panel interviews, technically). While you don’t get a say in what kind of interview you get, you can still do your best to give a good impression.

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5 panel interview tips and tricks

Once you’ve got your head around the idea of a panel interview, it’s not really that scary of an idea. All it takes is a bit of work and know-how, and you’ll be as prepared as you would be for any other interview. We’ve come up with a few tips on how to prepare for and succeed in a panel interview.

1. Inform yourself beforehand

As soon as you find out that it will be a panel interview, get to work collecting as much information as you can. Find out how many people will be there, what their titles are, and ideally what connection they have to the job you’re applying for. If they don’t tell you this in the initial email or phone call, you can always get in touch with them to find out. They’ll appreciate you going the extra mile to prepare!

2. Share your attention

It’s not always clear who has the most say in the panel interview process, or whose vote might get your application thrown out. That’s why you should give everyone an equal amount of attention. That goes for eye contact, addressing them in questions, and bringing copies of things like your CV. Everyone deserves a look in, and it’s nice to be nice.

3. Watch your body language

It’s common in a panel interview to have the candidate sit in the middle of the room, so that they can see and be seen by everyone. That means you don’t have a table or desk to hide behind, so they can see every move you make. It’s important to keep your body language in check so you don’t give off signs of nervousness or disinterest. Try to stay as relaxed and comfortable as you can.

4. Know who you’re talking to

When you do get a chance to ask the interview panel a few questions, it’s important that you ask them to the right people. For example, if the question is about the team dynamics, it’s better to ask the team lead than the HR rep. Think about it – who’s more likely to know? Not only will you get better information, but you’ll also show that you’ve been listening and are well informed about the company and its employees.

5. Treat it like any other interview

At the end of the day, a panel interview isn’t all that different from any other format. You’ll be asked questions, give good answers, and be evaluated on how well you fit the job. Don’t get too caught up in the details, or let yourself get stressed about the number of people; it’s better to focus on being prepared and having confidence in yourself.

Panel interviews: in short

Panel interviews are a quick and easy way for a company to review a candidate. They can tick lots of boxes at once by having multiple people interview one person in one go. There’s no need to worry about having a panel interview; they’re not as scary as they seem, and there can actually be some benefits. Our tips for you to be successful at a panel interview are:

  1. Know as much as you can about the panel before you go in.
  2. Give everyone the same amount of attention and respect.
  3. Keep your body language relaxed and calm.
  4. Address your questions to the right people.
  5. Don’t stress – it’s not that deep.

Follow these guidelines, and there’s no reason why you won’t do brilliantly during the panel interview process. Need some more tips? We have loads of information on general interview prep, which you can apply here too. Check out all our interview tips, and you’ll have a job before you know it. Haven’t landed yourself an interview yet? Your CV might need a bit of an upgrade - try out our free CV builder to give it a makeover.

FAQs about panel interviews

  • Are panel interviews hard?

  • A panel interview is no more difficult than a regular one-on-one setting. It may seem more scary and daunting because there are more people, but we’re sure you can get through it. Follow our tips and tricks when preparing and in the interview itself, and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

  • What kind of questions are asked during a panel interview?

  • The questions you’ll get in your panel interview depend on the job you’re going for. They may be more specific if there are experts in the field present, but just focus on giving the best answers you can.

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