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Preparing for Panel Interviews

By Marshall J Karp MA NCC LPC

Just when you think job interviewing cannot be any more stressful, along comes a panel interview. A panel interview is when more than one person interviews you at the same time. More and more companies are using this approach and their reasons could be to save hiring process time, get simultaneous impressions and consensus, and spread the hiring responsibility and accountability around. Your best defense is a good offense and prior preparation is crucial for doing well and, probably, besting the competition.
  1. Same Interview Rules Apply
    Just as you would prep for a regular interview, you will need the same time and amount of preparation effort for the panel. The more quality preparation, the more ready you will feel. The opposite is equally true with the less prepared you are, the more nerve racking this experience can be.

  2. One Question at a Time
    The key to success in a panel interview is that even though it is disorienting having the questions coming from several people, they cannot all speak at once, so just take things one question at a time.

  3. Be Professional
    Look professional, act professional, sit up straight, do not slouch, smile, do not use slang, do not cuss.

  4. Who are the Panel Members?
    When the call comes that the next step is a panel interview, ask who will be sitting on the panel and write their names down. Just as you would research an individual’s LinkedIn profile, you will research the panel members’ profiles.

  5. Take the Lead
    When you are ushered into the room, approach each panel member, shake hands, and go through the introductions. Do not passively sit and wait for the grilling to begin. You will get things off to a good start by setting an enthusiastic tone.

  6. Treat this as a Meeting
    Don’t look at this as a job interview, look at it as a meeting and you are in charge. Look at this as a staff training session and you are the leader. Ask if you can start off and give your 30 second pitch. Make your case that you are the best candidate for the position. Take their questions. Make a closing statement about what you would bring.

  7. Handouts
    In the vein of looking at this as a meeting or training session, you could make and take in packets of information for every panel member containing your resume, letters of recommendation, and certificates. You could direct them to the handout item as you speak. Just be sure to pass the packet out after your opening statement. If you pass the packet out as soon as you start, you might not have their full attention as they will be looking through the material.

  8. Head on a Swivel
    A major complaint heard from interview panel members is the candidate not making eye contact. When someone addresses you, locate, look and listen to them!

  9. Practice
    Practice your interview behavior and responses at least five times. The more you practice, the more you will get your rough spots out of the way. Better to make your mistakes and gaffes during rehearsal than the main event.

  10. Practice Panel Interviews
    Getting together with several of your job hunting associates, passing out a list of questions, having them shoot questions at you, and practicing can really sharpen your panel interview skills. At least try to get a few friends or family members together to help you.

  11. Fear Desensitization
    The main reason for individual or group practice is to desensitize and acclimate you to this unfamiliar and potentially frightful situation. A side benefit will be that one to one interviews will seem so much less complicated after this.

  12. Shake Hands When Done
    Just as you started, when it is time to go, stand up, make eye contact, shake everyone’s hands, and thank them for their time and attention. Let them know that you would enjoy working with them.

  13. Thank You Note
    When you get home, send everyone on the panel a thank you note. Of course, this pre-supposes that you asked and noted everyone’s names or got their business cards while you were there.

  14. Bring Your Positive
    Above all else, be at your positive best. Presenting a positive attitude can make the difference between a lesser qualified candidate getting an opportunity over a more qualified individual. Keep that positive on from the moment you hit the door to the moment you hit the door.

    About the Author

    Marshall J Karp is a Career Counselor in private practice for over 31 years. He has worked with thousands of successful job hunters and a variety of educational and overnmental institutions, including a two year government contract where he helped 117 unemployed individuals secure employment. Marshall has authored career and job search magazine and journal articles and won the prestigious Job Training Partnership Program of the Year Award.

    The idea behind the Job Search Power Meter was developed in the 1990's and the methods have been used by Marshall to help clients and students achieve successful results. Find out more at www.jobsearchpowermeter.com.


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