How to Survive a Panel Interview?
“The Panel interview” is one of many job interview types reverted to by employers in the Middle East and employers worldwide when attempting to assess prospective candidates for an organizational position in order to determine whether they would or would not make a good fit.
Jobseekers tend to share a common perception of panel interviews, that of a strictly uncomfortable setting with sophisticated professionals unforgivingly and unceremoniously scrutinizing the solitary target- the interviewee. Needless to say, in many, this type of interview triggers feelings of apprehension, panic and unease that begin long before the interview date and can last the duration of the interview.
The truth is, employers do not conduct such interviews with the express aim of pushing candidates out of their comfort zone or causing them undue anxiety and stress. Why then do they adopt panel interviews? What does a panel interview entail? And how can candidates survive one successfully?
What exactly is a Panel Interview?
A panel interview can be quite similar to the traditional one-on-one job interview in content but is quite different in context as it involves the simultaneous presence of all decision makers, including the panel leader, right there and then with the interviewee in one combined interview. Panel members take turns in asking the interviewee, respectively, questions they deem relevant to the position he/she is being interviewed for. Often, each interviewer’s questions tackle a specific area, i.e.: behavioral attitude, professional experience, skills etc…
Once all questions have been asked and answered and the interview is over, each member of the panel rates the interviewee according to his/her own perceptions and conclusions and then a discussion is held to decide whether the candidate is suitable to take on the position.
Why do organizations adopt Panel Interviews?
- Panel interviews are highly time-efficient as they allow all decision-makers involved to assess a prospective candidate simultaneously and come to one final conclusion within a short period of time.
- Panel interviews allow for a heightened element of behavioral testing and character assessment. The way the prospective candidate/interviewee behaves when faced with a sophisticated array of panel members allows them to determine whether he/she is capable of handling pressure well and of communicating easily across all levels of an organization (after all, these specific panel members, might, eventually become colleagues or managers).
- Panel interviews allow panel members to better dissect the details of the candidate’s professional experience, skills, behavior, etc… covering all angles that would be vital to the position itself.
- Panel interviews reassure management (and the candidate himself/ herself) that the end result of the process is quite just, as it involves numerous interviewers who ask questions, analyze, discuss and combine outlooks and feedback to arrive at a concerted final conclusion.
What can you, as a job seeker, do to better prepare yourself for a panel interview?
- Bayt.com’s Career Experts strongly recommends you follow the rituals of the one on one job interview to begin with: Research the company’s background and structure, its products, its marketplace and its organizational culture. You will need to be familiar with all these items on the day of the interview.
- Visualize: It is very important for you to prepare yourself mentally for the panel interview. Take a moment to visualize yourself in that meeting room surrounded by 2 to 6 professionals and answering all their questions confidently and easily. Visualize their questions and your respective answers and visualize ending the interview on a positive note. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! This will give your confidence a great boost once you’re there the day of the interview.
- Prepare a set of questions that you will ask the panel members: keep in mind it’s a two-way interview. You are not there to only answer questions. It’s highly recommended that candidates ask their own questions to the panel members concerned. Have your list of intelligent and professional questions ready!
What can you do on the day of the Panel Interview?
- Relax and remember you have done your part, you have rehearsed, visualized and you know exactly how to go about this. You know what your major strengths are and you are simply there to communicate them to each and every panel member.
- Make eye contact with each panel member and greet them with a smile- try to note down their names and positions so that you know who to address your questions to at a later stage. (It is not advisable to address all your questions to only one member , i.e.: the panel leader).
- Take your time in answering every question individually; being in a panel interview means things are moving fast and questions follow each other in quick succession. Stay alert and focus on doing justice to your answers without rambling or losing the thread.
- Is a question unclear? Are you not sure you got it right? Don’t shy away from clarifying what the question is exactly! Make sure you understand the question correctly before you elaborate.
- Take the time to ask the questions you have already prepared in addition to any others that come up during the interview. It is your right to ask questions and it only showcases how interested and interesting you really are!
What should you do after the Panel Interview?
Now that the interview is wrapped up, you should have the names and positions of your interviewers. Just like in the traditional one-on-one interview, it is time for the thank you notes. Make sure you send a thank you note to each panel member separately thanking them for their time and communicating your enthusiasm for and suitability for the specific role!
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