Panel Interview Questions: Tips & Techniques
A panel interview is much like a regular interview, though rather than facing one or perhaps two interviewers, there may be three to five people on the panel. Depending on the organisation you are joining, the panel may include members of the HR team, technicians, consultants, partners and line managers from various departments.
At the beginning of the interview, you will be introduced to each panel member by the interview ‘lead’. Candidates are then usually provided with a brief explanation as to how the interview will be structured.
The reasons for using a panel interview will vary depending on the business sector and the type of role that you are applying for, but the main advantages for recruiters include:
- To assess how well you respond to particular questions under pressure.
- To evaluate how you interact with multiple individuals.
- To assess your communication techniques.
- To test your capacity to build and maintain a rapport with each panel member.
In addition to the above, panellists will be assessing general interview criteria such as:
- Your suitability for the role and how well you relate your experience and skills to the questions asked.
- Whether you are a good fit for the company.
- Identification of any risk factors such as weak areas or issues that could cause problems. This can be anything from a weakness in literacy to long gaps between jobs, or periods of absence in your previous roles.
A panel interview can feel daunting. But if you're prepared and can communicate with each panellist, you should do well.
In some industries, the panel interview is used as a method of vetting applicants or making an initial interview shortlist. You will find that panel interviews are more typical in some industries than others. These sectors use them most frequently:
- Educational institutions
- Non-profit organisations
- Government organisations and partner agencies
Some academic institutions, for example, will require candidates to participate in an initial panel interview (which will often include a presentation) before inviting them to the main job interview. Not only do presentation panel interviews help employers determine your suitability, they also allow you as a candidate to convey your knowledge and enthusiasm for the role and the company that you are hoping to join.
As with any interview, preparation is absolutely essential. To stand the very best chance of success at your interview you should:
- Thoroughly research the company
- Review the job description in detail
- Conduct online research to find out about popular panel interview questions for the firm you are applying to
- Think of several questions that you could ask the panel relating to the role you have applied for
If you apply to join an insurance or consulting firm, panel interviews are quite routine in the selection process. These interviews usually follow a set process. Candidates will initially receive a list of questions to answer, such as "Why you are interested in joining the firm?" or "Provide an example of your 100-day plan". A short period of time will be allocated for you to prepare your answers before presenting your response to the panel.
Alternatively, you may be provided with a case study and then asked to present this to the interview panel.
Candidates will then be given three different scenarios and you asked to deliver an elevator speech lasting three to five minutes. This could be based around a number of issues, such as persuading the head of a client company to appoint your firm over another service provider.
If you apply to work at certain universities or colleges as a teaching professional, you may be required to deliver a teaching demonstration and written exercise for the panel. Panel interviews in the educational sector typically aim to assess:
- The ability to communicate clearly and concisely
- Capacity to listen and pay attention to others
- Knowledge and expertise
- Critical thinking and problem solving
Medical-based panel interviews will require you to answer questions about motivations and your reasons for studying medicine. You are likely to be asked a series of behaviour based questions, which may include explaining a situation in your career history when you dealt with a challenging situation. The panel will expect you to identify the challenges that you faced, as well as the obstacles you had to overcome, before explaining in detail what action you took, what the results were and how you learned from your experience.
Facing a panel interview can be a daunting experience, so knowing what sort of questions the panel will ask can certainly help! Some of the more common panel interview questions include:
- Provide an example of an occasion when you were under significant pressure to meet a deadline.
- When have you had to resolve a conflict or diffuse a difficult situation?
- How would a colleague describe you?
- What experience can you bring to this role?
With each of these questions, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer; the panel will look to see how you answered the question with the examples that you provided. Questions such as these are designed to explore how well you think on your feet, and how you deliver a response to an out-of-the-ordinary question or scenario.
When you are informed about the interview, you will usually be given a list of who will be present on the panel. Carry out some research to find out who they are and what their job involves. Use Google and LinkedIn to research each individual as much as you can. It is also important to be aware that members of the panel will come from different areas of the business, so they may view your responses differently.
Communicate clearly and speak to everyone on the panel. Make eye contact with each of them as you speak, rather than just speaking directly to the person who asked you the question. Do not talk directly to one person, but instead look from person to person when you talk, but always finish by talking to and looking at the person who initially asked you the question.
Tailor your responses to the question asked and provide specific examples from your employment history (or educational background) to back up what you are saying.
If the pace of the questions begins to increase or the questions become more complex in nature, it is very important to remain calm and confident. If you know your employment history inside and out, no matter what question the interview panel may throw at you, you should be able to address it effectively.
Finally, always ensure that you prepare questions to ask the panel about the role, the organisation or the people you will be working with.