Artwork by: Irina Troitskaya
Now that you have successfully scheduled a job interview, it’s time to brush up on your conversation skills. Let us show you the tips and tricks you need to flourish in a panel interview, make a solid first impression, and increase your chances of getting hired.
When it comes to landing your dream job, a job interview is probably the final obstacle you need to overcome. In today’s world, most organizations prefer hosting a panel interview instead of a one-on-one conversation with the hiring manager.
Unlike traditional interviews, the rules for multifaceted conversations are different. In this blog post, we will discuss the various aspects of panel interviews and how to ace them:
What is a panel interview?
How to prepare for panel interviews
How long do panel interviews last?
Common panel interview questions and their answers
A panel interview involves a conversation with multiple members of an organization. Typically, the interview panel consists of your potential supervisor, a human resources executive, and one or more key decision-makers in the organization. During the interview, each panel member can ask you about your qualifications, experience, and interest in the job.
In 2020, more than 114 million people lost their jobs globally. As the global economy slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, several organizations have taken drastic steps to streamline their recruitment process in a bid to fill the labor gaps as quickly as possible.
Instead of conducting multiple rounds of one-on-one interviews, some companies leverage panel interviews to save time. Here’s why employers prefer panel interviews:
Increase efficiency: Scheduling a panel interview with all key stakeholders saves time and makes the hiring process easy for everyone. As a job applicant, you are likely to find it easier to prepare for a one-panel interview than multiple rounds of individual interviews.
Eliminate bias: With so many interviewers in one place, the odds of favoritism and personal biases are reduced significantly. In most cases, the decision to hire a particular candidate must be unanimous.
Hire the best candidate: During a panel interview, the candidate will be thoroughly assessed from multiple perspectives. After the interview, all panelists will have the chance to discuss the applicant’s interview and exchange notes, resulting in the best interviewee getting hired.
Increase transparency: A panel interview provides you with a sneak peek into the organization’s culture, communication practices, and camaraderie among the panelists. Such an interaction will allow you to make an informed decision on whether to join the company.
While the intent of individual and panel interviews is the same, your approach to these interviews should be different. Here are a few answers to the million-dollar question: how do I prepare for a panel interview?
Before the interview, take some time to research every panel member. Check the company’s page to review their information. You can also check out their LinkedIn profiles to review their major accomplishments, career trajectory, and key initiatives for the company. During the interview, it is important to address each panel member by their name to show that you are invested in the process.
Think of your panel interview as a two-way conversation between yourself and your prospective employer. While the employer wants to learn about your aptitude and skill set, you would want to know whether the company is a good fit for you.
Instead of using generic language or technical jargon, you should prepare questions that specifically relate to the job you’re applying for and your job role. Your questions should also encompass career growth opportunities, your future at the company, and any incentives that come with the job role. Let’s look at a few examples of ‘smart’ questions.
What am I expected to accomplish during my probationary period?
How will my performance be evaluated?
What is the first task I will be working on?
How long have you been a manager at this company?
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What would you like to change about your department?
What are the biggest strengths of your team?
How am I expected to contribute towards the growth of my team?
What is the department-level skill gap you’re looking to bridge with the new hire?
What is the best way to describe the company’s values?
How has the company changed over the past few years?
What are the company’s long-term goals, other than increasing profits?
What do new hires find surprising about the company?
Are there any resources I can review to obtain a better understanding of my colleagues?
What does this organization offer that your previous jobs didn’t?
Here’s where a panel interview is different from a one-on-one interview. Unlike the latter, the former involves a lot of conversation and a surplus of information. It’s important to note a few important discussion topics during your conversation so that you can refer to them at the end of the interview and frame your follow-up questions accordingly.
According to research, a typical interview lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour. However, an interview of about 30 minutes is also considered long enough. The more time you spend conversing with the interviewers, the more you learn about them and vice versa.
Now that we’ve explored the definition of panel interviews and discussed a few tips and tricks on interview preparation, we’ll dive into some of the most commonly asked panel interview questions.
This type of behavioral question is intended to test how well you get along with team members. When answering this type of question, think about that one colleague at work you’re closest to and what would they say about you. Make sure your answers showcase your strengths and are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Example answer: “My colleagues would probably describe me as an amiable and positive individual. I always make it a point to show my appreciation to my team members, especially on a job well done. I let them know what their contribution means to the entire organization, which goes a long way in improving office morale and maintaining harmony in the team.”
When answering this question, you need to focus on your career goals and discuss how they align with the job you’re applying for. The interviewers are interested in knowing whether you would be a good fit for the company. To prepare your answer to this question, make sure to read about the company’s culture, mission, and values and think about how you can make an impact.
Example answer: “I’m interested in working at your organization because of its commitment to promoting philanthropic endeavors across the world. Having worked as a Communications Manager at multiple non-profit organizations, I’m well-versed in designing community engagement and outreach strategies and devising KPIs to measure the progress of such initiatives, which will definitely prove useful for the role of Engagement Specialist for your upcoming Feed-the-World Program.”
When the interviewer asks you this question, their objective is to assess how well you can handle difficult situations and how good you are at reflecting on your actions. Think about a particular situation where you and your supervisor had a different opinion on how to tackle a problem and how the two of you handled the issue.
Be careful not to portray your supervisor or colleagues in a negative light, and focus on what you learned from the situation. One of the best ways to answer this question is to apply the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
Example answer: “I had a disagreement with my supervisor on a performance evaluation plan. My supervisor wanted me to include certain KPIs in the plan, but I was in favor of not including them. We had a follow-up meeting where we both discussed our stance on the KPIs and whether they should be included. During our conversation, we listened to each other's opinions and shared our feedback in a positive and professional manner. In the end, we mutually agreed on which KPIs should be included or excluded and came up with an effective performance evaluation plan for our department.”
While honesty is the best policy, in this case, you may need to exercise tact and caution. If your long-term plan is to start your own business, it’s best not to bring it up!
At this stage, you probably don’t have a lot of information on your career growth, so you can be a little vague here. Focus on how excited you are for the opportunity, and talk about how your existing skills could prove useful for the job role.
Example answer: “In five years, I see myself becoming adept at the different processes in the payroll department, implementing new automation to speed up activities, and designing new workflows to increase efficiency across the department. Given my previous experience in supervising payroll preparation and proficiency in a number of software tools, I can leverage my existing knowledge to lead and guide my team members on various day-to-day operations, as well as provide strategic insight to the senior management at the company.”
As with any job, you’re likely to experience stress at your new job, and your potential employer wants to know how well you perform under pressure. When answering this question, you should talk about taking measures at work, as well as outside of work, to keep your stress levels in control.
Example answer: “When working on a project, I try to take a proactive approach to problem-solving to keep stressful situations at bay. I maintain a Google document where my team members and I discuss project-related bottlenecks and identify the best course of action to address these situations. We also think about the potential issues we’re likely to encounter along the way, and what can be done to prevent these issues at the onset. On a personal level, I engage in breathing exercises and mindful meditation to prevent stress from consuming me. I also look after my health by engaging in regular exercise and eating healthy.”
One of the most common mistakes applicants make during panel interviews is engaging with only one interviewer. Sometimes, the more quiet panel members are the ones who are taking notes and making observations, and they have the biggest influence over the hiring decision. Make sure to address all panel members and answer everyone’s questions.
Panel interviews are a better alternative to multiple rounds of one-on-one interviews. They help both organizations and job applicants save valuable time.
The trick to acing panel interviews is to keep the conversation flowing – make sure to address each panel member and ask relevant questions at the end of the interview.
Prior research is crucial. Before the interview, it’s important for you to know who you will be talking to and think about what value you will bring to the table.
Most of the questions asked during a panel interview tend to be of a behavioral nature. The interviewers are interested in learning about any job-related challenges you have faced and what you did to overcome them. This is where the STAR interview method could prove useful.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.