5 Steps to Conquering Panel Interviews

by Anastasia C. Valentine on October 18, 2017




As the IT labor market continues to tighten, employers are understanding the need to be competitive to attract and retain top talent. One area under tremendous scrutiny is the speed of an organization’s hiring process. Too short of a process may easily lead to making a bad hire. Too long of a process is frustrating for IT professionals who will not hesitate to take a competing offer if presented in a more timely manner. Many companies are trying to address this predicament by shortening their hiring cycle while maintaining the quality of hire. One growing strategy in the IT marketplace today is panel interviewing.

Why Companies Choose to Use Panel Interviews

Understanding why companies choose panel interviews will give you a better sense of how to prepare for them. In short, panel interviews are a strategic way to streamline the interview process. This style of interviewing consists of a combination of multiple interviews. It helps ensure that everyone from the hiring manager to fellow coworkers has an opportunity to assess a candidate’s skills and experience without dragging the process out over days or even weeks.

According to CEO, author, and columnist Lou Adler, panel interviews are also a valuable tool for reducing interviewer bias. A team effort generally leads to a more accurate assessment of skills and competencies. Additionally, research from award-winning journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis suggests that a diverse panel of interviewers also helps increase workplace diversity. Lewis showcases Intel, Accenture, Cisco, and other forward-thinking companies as examples of this scenario.

Finally, Glassdoor Economic Research suggests that group panel interviews are 13 percent more difficult for the candidate than traditional interviewing styles. Their research also indicates that a tougher interview results in more quality hires and more satisfied workers in the long run. These are important statistics to consider for employers who are cautious about shorter hiring processes and how that may lead to poor quality hires.

One final benefit of panel interviews is that it presents a better opportunity for you, the candidate, to assess the team dynamic and company culture. When you understand how people work together you can gain a better sense of whether you would be comfortable working in that environment.

How to Conquer Panel Interviews

1. Do Your Research

Researching the company, its leadership, and the position should be on your “to do” list for any kind of interview, but it is particularly important for panel interviews where there are more moving parts. Thoroughly reviewing a company’s website, career portal, and press releases will give you an understanding of the company as a whole and whether you would want to work there. Another crucial part of your research for a panel interview is getting the names of your interviewers in advance and learning everything you can from their LinkedIn or professional profile on the company’s website. This foundational knowledge will help you understand each interviewer’s role within the organization. The same is true for knowing the ins and outs of the advertised position you have applied for.

2. Prepare for the Interview

Preparation is an integral step no matter what type of interview you are walking into. It is not uncommon for a panel interview to produce nerves in even the most confident IT professional. The only way to beat these nerves is through preparation. That means you need to know your own resume and experience inside out while also reviewing a list of common interview questions. You need to prepare for behavioral interviewing as well as technical and run-of-the-mill interview questions. Aside from practicing your answers, you need to prepare questions to ask the interviewers at the end of the interview. Relating the question back to something brought up during the interview will show them that you are committed and have done your research. Being armed and ready with a host of potential questions and answers will help you appear and feel more confident in a panel interview.

3. Communicate with Everyone

This is where panel interviewing can get tricky. Though questions will be asked from specific individuals, you still need to address the entire team of interviewers in your answer. Your research on the interviewers should help you understand their roles within the organization and who will be interested in different facets of your answers. For example, an HR manager may not be as engaged in your technical answers as the IT director, but both will be interested in how you answer questions about coping with stress or working with a team. Direct your answers accordingly and be aware of how you connect on a personal level with each interviewer. It is natural for particular personalities to connect differently than others, but you do not want to risk isolating an interviewer whose personality seems at odds with your own. Finally, be aware of the body language of each interviewer and your own.

4. Set the Pace

The reason many professionals get nervous about panel interviews is how similar they appear to an interrogation. It is all too easy for a team of interviewers to speed through the interview, talking over each other and asking a million questions. Some may dominate the conversation or even disagree with other interviewers. The important thing is to stay calm and prove you can handle the pressure. You can help set the pace of the questions by answering with a steady momentum and pausing to take appropriate notes.

5. Follow Up

Asking for names, titles, and business cards during a panel interview is essential for being able to send individualized thank you emails and follow up questions. Avoid sending a mass message to the whole group, as this appears impersonal and lazy. To customize each thank you message, include a detail from the interview where you connected on a deeper level with the individual interviewer. This will help you stand out from other candidates while also strengthening the relationship.

At Resource 1, we have spent the last 35 years navigating the evolving IT marketplace and delivering top IT talent to our valued clients. Our deep relationships with our consultants give us first-hand experience into their motivations and preferences in their search for new opportunities. This deep-rooted understanding of our industry allows us to successfully identify the right IT people for every client every time. Contact us today.