5 Secrets to a Successful Panel Interview (and other career tips)

As if you weren’t already stressed enough about the interview, now you realize it’s 3 against one. There’s strength in numbers, and the numbers are on their side. Don’t freak out, with a few careful moves you can leverage a panel interview to your competitive advantage.

First, relax. They’re not doing this to intimidate you. Most likely, the many-to-one approach offers the employer efficiency and an ability to immediately calibrate their impressions.

5 Secrets to a Successful Panel Interview

1. Get the Lay of the Land

It’s perfectly kosher to ask what format to expect from the interview. Be upbeat and friendly while asking, “Will it just be you, or will others be participating?” I’ve seen too many candidates lose their composure when they walked in to an unanticipated panel. It’s better to know what you’re up against so you can prepare well.

2. Do Your Homework

If possible find out names and titles of the interviewers on the panel, and check them out on LinkedIn before you go. Be careful not to get too creepy (e.g. don’t look up their children’s little league stats), but a little preparation can go a long way in helping grease the skids to powerful connection. Develop targeted questions that you could ask each panel member based on their area of expertise.

3. Facilitate Conversation

One of the reasons for a panel interview is to see how you operate in a group setting. Answer the questions, but also look for opportunities to link together conversation and comments. This shows you are an active listener and can help steer a conversation.

4. Engage Each Panel Member

Start by making good eye contact with the interviewer asking the question.  Resist the urge to dart your eyes quickly from person to person, but do engage others throughout the interview. I’ve seen candidates focus all their attention on the person they think “matters.” Everyone matters or they would not be in the room.

Ask relevant questions of  each person. Make each person feel valued and actively listen to their responses.

5. Thank Each Person

As you leave, shake each interviewer’s hand and sincerely thank them for their time.  Then as soon as possible, send a follow-up thank you email or hand written note thanking each person again.

Other Career Tips (Free Downloadable Guide)

Every week I have people emailing me for career advice on resumes, interviewing, networking etc. To make it easier for those searching for a new job or making a career move, I’ve put the links to my practical career posts into a word document you can download for free, just click here career advice.  Feel free to share with others as well.

Here are some other links to useful articles as well.

 5 Ways You’re Sabatoging Your Career

How to Know Your Job Interview Didn’t Go Well and What To Do About It

5 Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes

Posted in Career & Learning and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. First time I’ve ever heard of this type of interview.

    If I had the chance, I’d have fun with it.

    To make it fun and engaging, I’d channel a talk show host like Johnny Carson or David Letterman. I’d make the panel feel at home yet show them I could control the room.

    p.s. After a four month hiatus, I’m back in the yoga studio! Feels marvy!

    • Steve, Wow that’s creative. I imagine that could work well in some contexts and bomb in others. P.S. I need yoga so much…I’ve been skipping it because I’ve been so crazy busy. I know better. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I guess interviews can take so many different forms and probably each form displays a different strength for the candidate.

    For me and the point which I think is most essential is doing one’s homework and research. Today with information so readily available, it is easier than ever to locate background stats on everyone and every company. People are impressed with the details.

    Thanks for a great post, Karin!

    • Terri, I so agree. Doing your homework, both in researching the company and in anticipating the questions and preparing for them is so important.

  3. Great points, Karin! Another tip for this panel interview is to tell stories and have a conversation. The best interview advice I heard was that if you’re doing more than 50% of the talking, you’re talking too much. Engage in conversation. Like any interview, come prepared and remember the conversation is to be shared, both ways. “So I read in your annual report that your widget project was launched in 2014. Tell me about the leadership at your facility that made it a success.”

  4. Panel interviews can be really difficult and your tips are great ones, Karin.

    When I interviewed for the FBI agent position, it was a panel interview…and it was intimidating!

    I would add that watching each person’s body language is important, and then adapting your own body language to meet theirs when they are the one asking the question.

  5. Karen, Great points. I would add that the interviewee needs to remember thay are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing them. By the way I really liked David’s question to the company.

  6. Great article. And remember if you’ve gotten this far in an interview, chances are you are capable. With that in mind, a tip for the interviewee is to relax, be yourself and enjoy the process. You might even get the job!

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