For many, facing panel interviews are a nightmare that wakes them in the middle of the night. And, to be fair, three (or more) interviewers to one can be intimidating. In this article we’ll talk about why panel interviews are used, how they benefit you, and some tips to stand out from other candidates.

Why do agencies use panel interviews?

The main reason is to get multiple perspectives. One person may notice something that another didn’t. Another may be that more than one person is invested in the outcome of the hiring decision. And finally, panel interviews are used to ensure fairness and reduce any biases a single interviewer might have.

The key benefit to having more than one person involved in an interview is:

  • More than one person gets to have an opinion on the hiring decision.
  • You’re probably meeting people you would work with in the future.
  • The hiring manager wants the interview process to be fair.

Here’s 7 tips to handle inevitable panel interviews:

  1. Be ready to make small talk. The more people in the panel, the greater the chance that one or more will be running late. They are most likely to ask how your commute was so have a better answer than ‘It was fine.’ Have some the questions ready like, “How’s your day been so far?”
  2. Treat them all equally. Sometimes, interviewees will focus only on the person who is ‘in charge’ or ‘the decision-maker’.  Sometimes candidates get it wrong when they guess who is really ‘in charge’ and offend them. Remember, everyone in the panel interview will weigh in on hiring you. So, make sure speak to each of them.
  3. Make eye contact with the person who asked you the question. If each panelist takes turns asking questions, it’s a little easier to remember to make eye contact with each of them. However, if only one person is asking questions, make sure to also make eye contact with the others too. Otherwise, they may feel like you’re ignoring them or don’t think they are important.
  4. Read your audience. Do any of them look confused? Ask them if they want you to explain further. Does one of them seem more engaged than the others? Pay that person a little more attention. Not only may they be your primary advocate in the final decision, their encouragement should defuse some of your nervousness.
  5. Shake their hands before you leave. This gives you one last opportunity to make dedicated eye contact with each of them. Thank them each directly for their time.
  6. Give them a sincere thank you. Thank them for their time and for sharing information with you. Conclude with saying you hope to see them again soon.
  7. Follow up. To this day, a follow up thank you makes a strong impression. You’d be surprised how many people don’t. Email is a great option. But, a handwritten note is better. Regardless of whether you choose an email or a note, make sure to personalize them. Try to mention something specific about what you talked to them about. For instance “I really enjoyed hearing about XYZ project you talked about.”

Remember, you aren’t the only one that is anxious about panel interviews. If you use these tips, you’re guaranteed to appear more calm, confident, and leave a more positive impression. Preparing for your next interview won’t be complete until you’ve added these tips to your repertoire.

If you found this article valuable, check out our article on how to make a positive impression BEFORE you even get to the panel interview.