The Truth About Panel Interviews – And how you can beat them!

I am going to start this post by saying I do not like panel interviews and I am in no way shape or form in favor of them. In fact, if you were to ask most people what their least favorite part of interviewing was, I am willing to bet at least half the people you ask would say panel interviewing. So, why do people hate them so much? What is it about panel interviews that makes people single them out as such a negative experience? Well, a few years back I ended up calling a bunch of candidates who had turned down attractive offers over the last 6 months. I called to ask them about their experiences in order to get some candid feedback from people who had been involved in our process.

The feedback I got was that the interviews where cold, it felt as if they were being grilled, they didn’t do a good enough job of selling the opportunity and that they absolutely hated the panel interviews. People hate them because they are the most nerve-wracking component of an already stressful event. Interviewing is already something a lot of people don’t like doing, but this is the worst part in many people’s eyes.

So you might be asking, well Ben, if this is the case why do people do panel interviews. Preach! I agree, we should do away with them. However, as uncomfortable as they may be, the fact of the matter is that there is value there for the company doing the interviewing. For one, they can get the candidate in front of a lot of people in a limited amount of time. In addition to that they get to see how the person might react to a stressful situation and they get a sense of how this person is able to handle themselves in a complicated group setting. There is no denying, getting an idea of how a candidate handles a stressful situation and being able to see how they communicate in that situation has value.

So far we have established two things. The first is that generally speaking people dislike panel interviews and that they aren’t going anywhere. So, if they aren’t going anywhere, you should probably get better at doing them right? Right! I recently had a panel interview and it went pretty well I think. It didn’t go terribly at least because I got the job and here I am now. So let’s talk about what I did to do well enough that I wasn’t derailed by that panel interview.

How to beat Panel Interviews

So I am going to give you three tips that will help you with panel interviews. I can’t help that they will always work, to some degree it will always depend on the interviewers but these should help. If you can employ these three techniques, most of the panel interviews you will do for the rest of your life will go well. Oh, and for extra help, check out this 5 Things Smart Interviewers Do in the Lobby.

Be confident

The first thing you need to do is not let nerves get to you. I know that is easier said than done. However, if you seem stressed they will notice and you aren’t doing yourself any favors. To be confident, you need to be prepared. So, do your research and go into the interviewer knowing that there is nothing more you could have done to position yourself for success. Once there, sit up straight, smile, look them in the eye and know that they also put their pants on one leg at a time just like you. A lot of it comes down to mindset. Push the fear out of your mind, be confident in what you bring to the table (if it wasn’t a lot, you wouldn’t be there) and let the passion for what you do show!

Don’t worry, be happy! And Passionate!

This one is another attitude adjustment. Your attitude can be infectious. If you smile, are happy and it’s obvious that you love what you do you can completely change the feeling in the room. Don’t think of it as an interview, think of it as a conversation with people who do what you do. However, some of the most frequent feedback I hear from panel interviews is the person lacked energy or passion. Don’t let that be you! I always advocate preparation, passion and positivity in interviewing. This is no different, it might even be more important in this setting.

Allocate your attention evenly

This is the single biggest pitfall people fall victim to while doing panel interviews. I have heard so many times that the interviewer completely ignored a person or directed all their attention to the person with the highest role. That is disrespectful and stupid. People notice when you do that and the person you ignored won’t be the only person who considers it in ill taste. When someone asks you a question, look at them but also make note to look at everyone a little bit. Look them in the eye, answer confidently and make sure you spend an equal amount of time engaging everyone there. I have seen this derail many candidates and it can be the kiss of death for an interview and your potential candidacy. Everyone took time to be there and prepare. Make sure you show them the respect they deserve and connect with them.

Well there you have it! If you can do those three things you will be ok. So much of success is showing up early, respecting people and being positive. The same holds true for interviews. For more prep advice, get my FREE Interview Prep Guide. If you liked this post and I hope you did, please share it and like it on your social networks. Go after what you want today, it’s the best way to live. Have an awesome day and thanks for reading!