One-on-one interviews can be nerve-wracking. And, once you've made it past a screening or two, you may find yourself in a good news/bad news situation. You made the cut, but now you need to meet with multiple people in a panel interview.
This type of interview, which has become more common in recent years, typically serves two purposes. It allows companies to save time — key players meet you as a group, instead of scheduling individual meetings with each one — and it enables interviewers to see how you react under pressure. But panel interviews have their downsides.
"In some cases the ‘panel interview’ lacks a specific agenda and there are many stakeholders looking for different things in relation to the position,” says Joe Mullings, chairman, founder and CEO of the Mullings Group, a medical technology talent-acquisition firm. Even so, there are steps you can take to prepare for a panel interview and manage it while it's happening. Keep the following tips in mind.
Ask for details
When you're scheduling the interview, ask for the names and roles of the people who will be there. This will help you do two things. First, you can look them up on LinkedIn or through a Google search and get to know who they are, says career coach Claudia Miller. By understanding their roles, you can get a sense of their areas of interest, which may give you insights into the types of questions they'll ask and the information you need to prepare well.
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For example, the chief financial officer may be interested in how you've successfully managed budgets, but the director of operations may zero in on other aspects of your previous employment experience. “You've got to be able to know where they're coming from and why,” Miller says.
Exert your control
Keep in mind that you've made it to this stage because the panelists saw something promising in you and believed you were worth an investment of their time. That gives you a measure of power. “Try and control the interview session, rather than have it control you,” Mullings advises. One tactic he suggests is to invite the company officials, as they introduce themselves or after, to explain how the position you are seeking influences their roles. This will allow you to thoughtfully tailor your answers to what their concerns might be, he says.