How to thrive under the pressure of a panel interview
If you thought a one-on-one interview was scary, then wait until you face a panel one. Many people tend to be nervous, sweaty and even freak out into joblessness. If you are reading this, then it is likely that you’ve finally received an interview invitation. Probably you don’t know if it would be a one-on-one type or a panel interview.
Panel interviews involve three or four people firing questions at you. You probably have heard people call it a ‘firing squad’. Chances of you being embarrassed will be high if you don’t prepare for such an interview. In this article, we will be looking for some vital things to expect during the interview and how to cope with its pressure.
Why companies opt for a panel interview
A panel gives an organization a chance of choosing the best candidate after by consensus. You should take it as a perfect chance to impress the majority. Most panel interviews focus on the behavioral aspects of the candidates. They want to hear your reactions to a wide range of issues and understand your ability to communicate with the panel.
Have some knowledge of the panel
A panel would always represent various departments of a company, thus will want to know how efficient you can work together with departmental staff. Most of them come from different financial, religious and social backgrounds that you have to know of before the panel interview. Find out who they are and what they represent before saying something stupid that will embarrass you.
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Simply call or mail whoever responded to your application. Inquire about who will be on the panel. After finding out their names, try to search them online and look at their social media accounts to get a hint on what they represent. You don’t want to mention something that may be considered defaming to single mothers or divorcees. For instance, one may ask you about a recent social issue in the media. You should know how to respond to the question without hurting the feelings of some individuals on the panel. Memorize their titles and introduce yourself with a punch that will help in the panel interview. Once you make yourself comfortable in a panel interview, responding to other questions will be easier.
Try your best to focus on each member of the panel
It’s best done from the introduction stage where you have to know each one well and even refer to them by their titles. Surely, everyone would want their academic or social status levels to be noticed. Take special care when answering questions from professors as many hate being addressed as Mr. or Mrs.
When it comes to responding to each question from the panelists, try to address the response to the whole panel rather than directing it to the one who asked. Try to look at the whole panel while answering the questions and refer to previous responses from the entire panel. Engaging your panel even on controversial issues will help score some marks for that position you want.
Don’t be afraid as questions are fired your way
There are those panelists who will just want to mess with you. It is meant as a test to understand how you react to stressful situations. No one wishes to employ a person who plays it cool and freezes out during the tough situations. In a panel interview, especially one that is pushed for time the interviewers will throw their questions at you faster. When the questions start streaming in faster than needed, take about a second or two before responding to them. Think about what you’re about to say. Go straight to the point.
There will be cases when another person cuts your response to some unrelated question. When it happens, gauge what will be more important and respond accordingly. If you still have something to say on the last question, then politely request for time with such a statement “before I come to that, allow me to add some last thought on….” This gives you much more control of the interview and demonstrates a level of maturity needed for all employees.
Plan well for follow-up questions
A panel interview like one-on-one interviews will have its share of follow up questions. These are questions that arise from responses you already made. They give you more opportunity to expand on your earlier points, but at the same time can present more challenges. What satisfies one person may not be satisfactory to the other one. So it is important to explain yourself basing on your earlier responses politely. You can adequately prepare for follow-up questions by having your friend help do a mock panel interview. Go through common interview questions and let your friend poke a few holes in your answers here and there, it’ll help narrow down your responses to one that satisfies the particular interviewer who asked the follow up question.
Prepare to repeat yourself as much as possible
It is common for other panelists to ask for more clarifications. Not everyone will take in what you say fast in a panel interview. This is because people have different listening styles that may not conform to your faster verbal abilities. You should thus be fluent and audible for easier understanding and minimal repetition. It should not seem awkward to repeat responses from your previous panel interview.
Try as needed to impress each member of the panel by responding to their requests professionally. Don’t be short tempered when you are asked to repeat a particularly controversial issues. Be as clear as possible and let no one guide you into saying something stupid.
Finally, remember to thank every member of the panel at the end and feel appreciative for the chance. They all have spared their time for you and recognizing that in your final comments is important. You should also use the time to request their business cards for later follow ups. This will leave a final mark that will be remembered when they reach a consensus. It will have helped create the best rapport even when you win the job. With these tips, nailing a panel interview won’t be that difficult. Good luck!