(2022) Acing Panel Interviews: Tips, Questions & Answers

Jan. 14, 2022

Panel Interviews are a type of interview where you are interviewed by multiple people at the same time. By multiple, it could be two or three people, but usually more than that.
(2022) Acing Panel Interviews: Tips, Questions & Answers

What are panel interviews?

Panel Interviews are a type of interview where you are interviewed by multiple people at the same time. By multiple, it could be two or three people, but usually more than that. It's very similar to interviewing with one person, but instead you have to prepare for different personalities and interactions every time you walk into the room.

Panel Interviews are increasingly common in job applications—especially in high-level positions like government jobs or executive positions. They can also be seen in large companies (like Google or Amazon) where there is a lot of upper management expected to be involved with the hiring process.

Tips for acing a panel interview

When it comes to panel interviews (and any kind of interview for that matter), preparation is the key. You need to understand the process in order to excel. To help you out, MentorCruise has put together a handy list of tips you can use to help get yourself ready to shine.

1) Familiarize yourself with the interviewers.

If you know the names of your interviewers before the panel interview, take a moment to look up their bios and learn something about each person.

Even if you don’t know what position they want to hire for in the company, reading through their LinkedIn profiles and other sources will help you get a sense of their backgrounds. It may also give you some insight into where they are coming from when asking questions or sharing experiences.

2) Bring enough materials for everyone on the panel.

Unless specifically told otherwise by someone at the hiring organization, assume that there will be several people interviewing you at one time. Bring materials such as portfolio samples and resumes that can be shared with everyone sitting in on your interview. If available, bring extra copies of these materials to leave with each interviewer.

3) Engage with every interviewer equally.

In most cases, people participating in a panel interview will take turns speaking and asking questions. This means that you need to give equal time and attention to each interviewer so as not to appear rude or short-changed on your responses. Even if one person starts the conversation, encourage the others to join into the discussion by using your answers and body language to involve everyone.

4) Structure your answers.

Many people make the mistake of answering interview questions without any kind of plan. If you're a gifted conversationalist that might be fine, but let's face it, not all of us are. With that in mind, it's important to go into the interview with a framework for answering questions that allows you to give reliably high-quality answers.

The STAR framework is a great option if you're looking for a structure for your interview responses. Each letter or STAR stands for a feature that you'll want to include in the responses you give:

  • Situation: The context required to understand your response.

  • Task: The problem you were responsible for solving.

  • Action: What you did to solve the problem.

  • Result: What happened as a result of your action.

5) Don't overcomplicate things.

In a panel interview, there's a good chance your interviewers will come from different branches of the company. That means not all of them will be knowledgeable about the specifics of what you do. If you want to keep everyone engaged with your responses, don't overcomplicate them with jargon or technical terms and concepts unless specifically asked to do so.

6) Expect follow-up questions.

Panel interviews tend to be faster-paced and more in-depth than standard interviews because they involve a room full of decision-makers. After you've responded to a question from one interviewer, you should expect to field a few follow-up questions from the other interviewers. To prepare, make sure you think carefully about the examples you choose to highlight and take your time getting the details straight. It's okay to pause for a few seconds before speaking!

7) Ask questions when given the chance.

If someone at the panel interview opens the floor for questions, it’s okay to ask about salary and benefits in addition to learning more about the position you are interviewing for. Asking questions is the best way to get extra information about the position you're applying for, and it also shows your interviewers that you've thought enough about the position to formulate thoughts of your own.

8) Don't forget to say “thank you”!

After you’ve finished up your interview, send out individual thank you emails to everyone who interviewed you. Let them know you enjoyed the process and that you're excited to hear from them regarding the next steps. For bonus points, skip the emails and send out (or deliver) physical notes. Taking the time to write a handwritten note is an excellent way to make an impression on your interviewers and keep yourself in their minds while they're making decisions.

What kinds of questions come up at panel interviews?

While it's impossible to predict the exact questions you'll be asked at your panel interview, there are still some common questions that are likely to come up in some form or another. Usually, there will be a mix of situational and behavioral interview questions:

Situational Interview Questions

Situational interview questions are asked to determine how you will respond to certain situations in the future. The content will often be hypothetical, and you'll be expected to engage in a bit of introspection and imagination.

  • “What would you do if your coworker was not pulling their weight?”

  • “How will you manage your team members?”

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions are asked to determine what kind of job candidate you are based on how you have acted in the past. These questions often start with “Tell me about a time when…” or something along those lines.

  • “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult coworker or boss”

  • “Give an example of a situation where your work was criticized and how you handled it.”

Panel Interview Example Questions

Tell us about yourself.

Interviewers love to ask this question because it's great for open-ended responses that highlight things that the interviewee thinks are relevant. Great answers tend to be both informative and concise, so keep your response short and sweet. Highlight a few of the most impactful things that you have done that relate to the position you're applying for.

Example: “I grew up outside ______ and moved to ______ to study machine learning. After graduating, I accepted a job at Nvidia and worked there for two years. I love the creative problem-solving that the job requires, and I'm currently looking for positions that will allow me to take on more responsibilities and further hone my skills.”

Why should we hire you?

Interviewers often raise this question to differentiate you from other applicants. When you answer, discuss what makes you a unique candidate and how you stand apart from the competition.

Start by mentioning background details and past accomplishments that relate to the job opening, before highlighting a single aspect that makes you a strong candidate.

Example: “One of your job postings said that you are looking for someone with experience creating branding that tells a story. As we talked about earlier today, one of my experiences has been leading ______'s marketing efforts and ensuring that every creative asset we produce stays on brand, especially whenever we’re working with external suppliers and content marketing agencies. I love learning about our clients and translating their stories into campaigns, and I think that experience makes me an excellent candidate for this campaign.

Describe a time when you needed to collaborate.

Hiring panels typically ask this question to assess your teamwork skills and ability to work with colleagues. When you answer, discuss a specific example that illustrates your teamwork capabilities, including a challenge you faced and a successful outcome you achieved.

Example: “One of the projects that I am most proud of was working with our sister office's communications team to help grow their social media following for one of their clients while we were both pitching new work.

Each time we would reach out and invite people who had previously engaged us to join another network for this client, we saw an uptick in engagement and followers. A few months later, when we came up for renewal, they brought us back and attributed their success partially to our efforts.”

How would you define success?

Hiring managers sometimes ask this question to determine your definition of success and how it relates to their company's goals. The interviewer hopes the information they learn from your response will help them figure out whether your ideals align with what the company's. When answering, describe your definition of success in professional terms that are relevant to the industry you hope to work in.

Example: “When I started my career, I thought success meant having an office and a position where I commanded a certain amount of authority. Now that it's been several years, I’ve discovered that there is more to success than just titles or financial compensation.

For me personally, success means being passionate about the work I do and feeling valued for the contributions I make. I love seeing projects through to the end, and I get satisfaction from the knowledge that I'm making people's lives easier and more productive.”

What qualities do you look for in a supervisor?

This question helps hiring managers assess whether you will be satisfied working under their supervision, while also giving them insight into how much respect you have for management roles. When answering, give specific examples of how you value your past supervisors' qualities.

Example: “I look for supervisors who are consistent, supportive, and available. I also think that it's important to feel like they have my best interests in mind. For example, if I do a good job on something, I want to receive positive feedback because it allows me to keep up the good work.”

What types of problems do you find most challenging?

Hiring panels ask this question, so they can gain perspective on what you see as an obstacle and how you handle certain situations. When answering, name one specific challenge that is relevant to the position description and explain why it was difficult for you with examples from previous work experiences or school projects.

Example: “One of the challenges that I find most challenging is when there are too many conflicting opinions in a group. It's difficult for me to provide my ideas when everyone else has already shared theirs.”

What are you looking for in terms of salary?

Hiring managers ask this question, so they can determine whether the salary range they offer will meet your expectations and also get an idea of how much money motivates you. When answering, be honest about what you expect, without revealing that you hope to earn more than the position pays by providing at a range, with the minimum being an amount you’re comfortable with having.

Example: I'm currently earning $55,000 annually. It would be nice to make more money, but I also have to weigh things like benefits and job satisfaction, too.”

Do you have any questions for us?

Hiring managers often use this question to assess your interest in the job. When you answer, have a few questions prepared that will help you decide if you want to work for this organization. Try to avoid asking about typical interview topics like benefits and hours because hiring panels are not always able or willing to answer these questions.

Example: “I’m curious what types of projects your product ops department specializes in? I’ve worked with several kinds of product management functions, but mostly with agile teams.”

Panel interviews give jobseekers an opportunity to showcase their skills while also demonstrating their knowledge of industry trends. By taking advantage of this opportunity, candidates who participate in these types of interviews can prove themselves capable of becoming valuable assets to a company.

Be sure you do your research, so know who will be interviewing you and what positions they are hiring for. Bring plenty of materials to share with everyone involved in the interview, take advantage of opportunities for your portfolio samples to be shown, lead the conversation by taking a conversational approach, expect follow-up questions, and ask about anything else that may be important to you when given the chance.

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