Panel Interviews Are Tough Nuts – Know How To Crack Them! [5 Tips]

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Why do they do the interview?

Can’t they simply keep it on pen and paper?

Were not the one-on-one interviews enough, that they came up with this new offering called ‘panel interviews’.

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Can you resonate with the above thoughts? Yes? Well, you are not alone!

Panel interviews, let’s accept it, are dreaded by all. No one really likes them, but there’s hardly any way out. Except, to learn to handle them!

Over the years, Panel interviews have become an important component of the recruitment processes of many companies and organizations. For companies, it lets them judge a candidate on a number of parameters in one go. For candidates, a panel interview means a round or two less before the final selection (Good news!).

However, one needs a specialized and sharp approach to tackle a panel interview.

This post discusses some special tips to perform exceedingly well, particularly in the panel interviews. But before that, let us understand what exactly is a panel interview.

What is a Panel Interview?

A Panel Interview comprises of 3-6 interviewers with different expertise and from various departments of an organization, interviewing a candidate together. A typical interview panel will consist of the manager under whom the hire is supposed to work, a subject matter expert, a senior executive, and a representative from the HR department.

With questions coming in from all angles, a panel interview can turn out to be a big deal for the candidate!

How to Handle a Panel Interview?

Having understood what a panel interview is and how it happens, let’s get straight into the business.

Here are 5 specific tips to tackle the challenge posed by a panel interview, and emerge out victorious! (It isn’t any less than a battle, right?!)

1. Greeting the panel collectively – how to do it?

The quest to impress the panel members starts from the moment you enter the interview room. And there comes the first challenge as well – how do you wish or greet 4-6 members of the panel at a time? Shall you wish them individually? Well, it will take a minute to do so!

But then how to ensure that a collective wish reaches everyone? And what if the panel consists of both male and female interviewers? Shall I wish  Good Morning Sir(s), or Good Morning Mam(s)?

Well, well, well…here’s how to do it.

Wish the panel collectively, and as you wish, make sure that you look through across the length of the table, covering all the panel members sitting. If the panel is a mix of genders, which most probably it will be, keep it a simple Good Morning, with no Sir or Mam.

As simple and inconsequential as it may sound, but breaking down at this start with a jumbled up wish can cost you the entire interview. So beware!

2. Making eye contact

In a panel interview, there will be instances when one member of the panel has asked you a question, and in your attempt to give a satisfactory answer to him/her, you are literally ignoring and hence losing the attention as well as the interest of the rest of the panel. You don’t want that to happen, right?

It’s okay to keep your focus on the concerned interviewer while answering his/her question, but also do not forget to give an occasional glance to other panel members as well, so as to address the panel as a whole and retain its attention. Establishing eye contact with each member is the key to winning the panel, and this is where you have to excel.

3. Managing time, and your nerves

Time management becomes another important factor while facing a panel interview.  The reason is simple – in a panel interview, there’s never a dearth of questions for you to answer. Questions are coming from all directions, at all times, throughout the length of the interview.

In fact, many times, you would not have completed your answer before another interviewer asks you another question.

So how to go about handling such a situation? Keep your answers concise, and to the point. Also, catch a breadth between the questions wherever you can.

Remember that a panel interview is not print, but a marathon. Slowly and steadily, you will win!

4. Know the panel, if you can

Knowing the panel that is going to interview you beforehand can prove to be a big plus for your interview preparation. Having known the background and qualifications of the panel members, you will be able to have a better understanding of which member expects what from you, and hence you will be able to give better framed and fine-tuned answers.

For example, the subject matter expert asking you about your strengths means he/she is interested in your technical strengths/ skill set. Whereas, the HR asking you the same means he/she wants to know your personality traits.

Also, try to remember the names of (if not all) a few panel members, and address them by their names. This will help you establish a personal rapport with the members of the panel. And believe, they will be impressed by this gesture of yours.

5. Follow all the rules of a one-to-one interview!

Finally, all the rules applicable to acing a one-on-one interview apply here as well. So do not forget to do your research, follow a good body language, prepare questions, and also write a thank you note to all the panel members individually.

Final words:

Do not take a panel interview lightly. Neither compare it with one-on-one interaction. Panel interviews require a different approach and some special interventions. With the above tips and tricks, you will certainly be able to crack the panel interviews. Here’s to your success.

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