Panel interview? Here's what to expect

Job interviews are nerve-racking – that’s usually a given. But what about when you find out you’ll be facing three or more interviewers? For some people, the prospect of this can be unnerving, and it’s understandable that you might feel outnumbered.

Director at Good People HR, Kristine Tuazon, says that in the past, only candidates applying for senior roles would meet multiple interviewers at once. But now panel interviews are much more common, as employers want to make sure employees are a good fit for the team and workplace as a whole.

It’s no longer just about your skills and experience. Your interviewers will be looking to assess whether you’re passionate, and whether your goals or values make you a good match for the business.

So, knowing that you may face multiple interviewers in a job interview, here are three important pieces of information to consider.

3 things to keep in mind for panel interviews

  1. The size of the panel. Unsurprisingly, the reason the number of interviewers varies is that there are different people involved in the hiring process. Tuazon says, on average,  a panel has three people, but it can have up to five. “Sometimes a psychologist is included, or if it’s a software developer role, a Technical Consultant might be involved. But three is pretty standard,” she says.

    No matter the size, it’s important to engage and acknowledge the whole panel, not focus on a single person. There are a few ways you can do this: using open body language, making eye contact with each interviewer, using their names, and addressing what’s important for each person.
  2. The role of each interviewer. When facing multiple interviewers, it’s important to understand that each person has different duties and is there to assess your skills and qualities accordingly.

    Tuazon uses the example of a company accountant. She says a candidate, who makes it through to a panel interview may meet: “the CEO, who is there for strategy, the HR person, who is there to assess personality and behaviour, and then there’d be your prospective direct manager.”

    Tuazon says the direct manager could answer your questions about the role, such as ‘tell me a bit more about the team’ or ‘how do you expect me to perform in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of the role?’

    “At this stage, you’re planting the seeds of trust,” she continues. “You’re showing you’ve researched the company. You could ask HR about the culture, the CEO about his vision for the next 5 years, and ask the direct manager about current challenges, success metrics and what success looks like in the role.”

    On the flipside, the direct manager will most likely ask more technical questions, HR will ask behavioural-based questions and the CEO will be there to work out if you’re a good fit for the long-term strategy.
  3. That you’re there for good reason. It’s worth remembering that you’re being interviewed by multiple people because the employer and company want you there.

    “You’re there because you’ve made the top few people,” says Tuazon. “It’s where the self-worth and self-esteem part really kicks in. You need to say to yourself, ‘I’m supposed to be here!’ That’s one thing that we really encourage all candidates to remember.”

Tuazon closes by saying that often, the interviewers are nervous too because finding the right person is important to them. So, it’s important to believe in yourself and show them your worth.

“I firmly believe that there are three main things that rule a candidate out; self-doubt, lack of preparation and lack of relevant examples,” she says. So, work on building your confidence, getting prepared, finding examples you can share with your interviewers.

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