The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

December 12, 2017

Tips for Approaching a Panel Interview

Panel interviews are becoming increasingly popular and certainly have their advantages over their one-on-one alternative. What needs to be understood, however, is that one does not approach a panel interview in the same way they might a one-on-one. You will need to slightly modify your preparation and interview behavior to ensure greater success.

1. Find Out Who Will be Present

Just as you would for a one-on-one, learn who will be on the panel and do your research on each person in order to gain a better sense of what the interview may hold. Doing this will also assist you in predicting the types of questions you may be asked based on the roles and departments that will be represented in the room. Look for common ground with the individuals and remember anything that stands out to you as you do your research. Do not underestimate the power of alma mater.

2. Introduce Yourself to Each Person

Although it may feel unnecessary and even marginally unnatural, it’s important you introduce yourself to every individual on the panel. You are in fact approaching a group of people as one party, however, each of them will be forming their own judgment of you. Treat them equally and with respect. The first impression you convey is an important one. You don’t want a panelist’s experience marred by the feeling they were neglected at the outset. Even if throughout you did engage with them, their first memory will most likely override that. A firm handshake and warm smile can go a long way in setting a precedent.

3. Engage with Everyone

Much like in public speaking, it is important to engage with your audience as much as possible. When answering questions, ensure that you are making eye contact with the entire panel and not just the question-asker. It can be daunting, especially if you feel you aren’t being received well but don’t let that throw you, instead use this trepidation to motivate you to speak more clearly and coherently. It is commonplace to avoid the gaze of an individual with whom you don’t connect with well, but in a panel interview, this should encourage you to engage more closely. Do not be disheartened by a lack of nodding or furious note-taking; although these practices are not ideal on either the part of the interviewer or interviewee, these scare tactics are nothing to be afraid of.

4. Callback to Previously Mentioned Responses

Samantha Garcia, Marketing & Communications Manager, “In comedy, a callback is where a new joke makes reference to a previously mentioned joke. Typically the callback gets a larger laugh as the audience feels more closely tied to the comedian and the content, rather than feeling like the recipients of pre-scripted and rehearsed material. A callback is also an exhibition of finesse. In a panel interview, it is not very different. Calling back to answers already given will connect several panelists together and show you are engaging more widely.”

You may be answering Bob from Sales’ question to you but calling back to your response to Karen from HR will show not only a greater connection between you and the panelists but also you and your experiences. Even if you did have answers that you practiced beforehand, a callback will make the interview appear more candid and will show that you are truly engaged with the content you are presenting.

5. Tailor the Question Portion of the Interview

Panel interviews still have the question portion where you will be asked if you have any questions for the board. Although you may have come into the interview with queries already, if throughout the interview these went unanswered, be sure to ask them whilst making specific reference to the interview. This will show that you were engaged during the interview but still display a healthy amount of curiosity. Try as much as you can to ask questions of different panelists rather than several to the same individual. This again falls into the realm of treating them equally and paying attention to each of them as being a single entity rather than one faceless panel.

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