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5 Hacks to Conquer the Dreaded Panel Interview


By: Kenneth L. Johnson

You finally received the call…after months of targeting company decision makers, submitting online applications for positions that match your skill-set and diligently following company social media feeds…the time has come. They’ve called to schedule an interview!

The person on the other line begins to rattle off the interview particulars; date, time, location and the names of the interviewer(s)…hold up…interviewers (plural)? The anxiety begins to slowly creep in as you realize it's a Panel Interview. As you write down the names and titles of the company representatives…one…two…three…four…now you’re feeling like your chest is going to burst from the panic. You have never been on a panel interview before and unknowingly it’s the first step toward your dream job…”damn”!

No worries, I have the steps to make this a success. Here are 5 Hacks to Conquer the Dreaded Panel Interview every time.

1. Arrive Early: This sounds really easy and in theory it is but for some reason job seekers struggle to follow this cardinal rule of interview success. If you are less than 15 minutes early…you are late. The expectation in this case is the rule. Figure out your wardrobe and travel itinerary the day before and leave time for unexpected mishaps like traffic.

2. Do Your Research: There is no excuse to approach an interview opportunity without being prepared. By prepared I mean knowing all you can about the company and the company representatives that will be conducting the interview. In today’s world of informational platforms like Glassdoor and LinkedIn there is no reason to not have a clear understanding of the company’s culture and cursory knowledge of the representatives that you’ll be meeting.

3. Initiate the Small Talk: It’s always good to be savvy enough to identify an ally in the room. Is it possible that you both attended the same college, have worked for another company, belong to a mutual professional or social organization. Maybe you just hit it off. Whatever the case, a little small talk prior to the interview can go a long way toward establishing who will be willing to fight for you in the selection process. Engage that person with eye contact and targeted responses and let them guide you to interview success.

4. Slow Down: Often when we are experiencing anxiety…it is extremely important to take a deep breath and focus in on the task at hand. Take your time to think the questions through and deliver clear concise answers that reflect your knowledge and preparation. The interviewers expect you to be slightly nervous but anything more than that may leave the impression that you’re not ready for “prime time”. Take your time and nail the response!

5. Personalize the Thank You: I know you’re well aware that a personalized thank you note to everyone involved in the process is a must. This simple exercise can solidify you as a professional worthy of consideration. I had one HR Manager tell me that she was firmly on the fence about a candidate until she received a timely well written thank you note. This gesture provided the nod necessary to move the candidate off the fence and on to the next phase of the process. Have your thank-you notes in the mail within 24 hours of the interview.

Founder & President, Kenneth L. Johnson, is the #1 ranked diversity recruiter as recognized by Google search engines and has positioned East Coast Executives as the only real choice for Diversity Recruiting and Employment Services.