A panel interview is a part of hiring procedure that allows several people to interview a job candidate at once. Interviewers may include department heads, people from related departments, supervisors, and even owners or vice-presidents. A panel interview is often done as part of a multi-step interview process, and may occur after a few one-on-one interviews have already been successfully navigated.
Panel interviews are notoriously nerve-wracking. If sitting through an interview with one potential employee is already difficult, having a whole room of executives staring and firing questions at a nervous job candidate can be downright panic inducing for some people. Panel interviews do provide excellent opportunities for both the candidate and the employers to size the other side up. While interviewers can get a sense of the personality of the candidate, an astute candidate can also pick up cues about the working relationships and group dynamics present within the organization.
For interviewers, it is important not to make the candidate feel overwhelmed during a panel interview. Generally, an employer is trying to get a read on the honest personality and skills of an applicant, not simply an idea of how he or she performs during a tense interview. Some panels come with a list of prepared questions for each candidate, so as not to overlap with one another. It may also be a good idea to appoint a single person as the chair or head of the panel, so that he or she can keep the process running smoothly.
While others are asking questions, observing panel interviewers have an excellent opportunity to pay careful attention to the candidates responses and demeanor. Watching body language can reveal an incredible amount about a person's identity. Though mannerisms should not always be taken as an absolute truth, experts suggest that key factors such as eye contact, body position, and tone of voice can be very telling. Depending on the available job, observed behavioral cues in a panel interview can go a long way toward forming a cohesive opinion about the applicant's suitability.
For applicants, a panel interview is a bit like playing ping-pong with six opponents at once. It is very important to share attention equally around the room while speaking or responding. Many experts suggest making eye contact with everyone, and being sure to address answers to the person who has asked the question. When the interview is over, shake hands or exchange equal farewells with all panelists. One person feeling slighted or ignored may make the difference between a job and a missed opportunity.