Panel Interviews: Stay Cool and Know What to Expect

Kellie Hanna, CPRW By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: May 25, 2023
Three panel interviewers greeting job candidate

Top 6 tips for keeping cool in a panel interview

If you’re a little nervous about facing one interviewer, or two, imagine staring down a panel of five or ten. If you think this might be a challenge, you’re correct. But if you think you can’t handle the pressure, think again. If you keep a cool head and move forward one step and one question at a time, you’ll impress your interviewers—no matter how many of them there are—and land the job offer you’re looking for. Keep these tips in mind.

1.  Be ready, just in case.

Most of the time, employers will warn candidates before the date of the interview if the session will take place in a panel format. But sometimes they won’t…so be ready for anything. If you walk into room and find eight pairs of eyes staring back at you, don’t get anxious. Just take a deep breath and get ready to knock off some socks.

2.  Speak slowly.

Regardless of the pace of your natural speech, slow it down by a beat or two when you’re speaking to a group of interviewers. First, you’ll make a more confident impression if you do this. But you’ll also make the process easier for your listeners. They’re not here to serve as a passive audience; they’re actively listening to everything you say, and they have a lot riding on the outcome of this decision. Make sure they catch every word.

3.  Pause for two full seconds.

Wait for the full duration of two Mississippi’s before you begin answering each interview question. This wait may seem agonizingly long from your point of view, but it’s actually not long at all. Again, this will serve a dual purpose. It will make you seem confident, collected, and in control, and it will also give you a few moments to organize your thoughts and map out an articulate answer.

4.  Distribute your eye contact.

Don’t just aim the entire interview at one person. No matter how nervous you are, relax your gaze and speak to each individual member of the panel, even those who aren’t asking you any questions. Simply by controlling your eye contact, you’ll make each person feel engaged and included in this conversation with you.

5.  Be prepared.

You may think you’re ready for anything, but a few minutes of actual rehearsal can have a smoothing effect on the entire process. Deliver your elevator pitch out loud before the hour of your session, ideally to a person (but a mirror or your cat will work too). Just hearing yourself say these words can make your delivery calmer and more articulate when the spotlight moves in your direction.

6.  Never panic.

You’re not on trial, and you haven’t done anything wrong. But panel interviews often make candidates feel challenged or cross examined, and when this happens, answers tend to get defensive and rushed. If you feel put on the spot, pause and take a breath. Then answer slowly. Smile. Don’t blurt, don’t giggle, and don’t repeat yourself. You’re great at what you do, and you deserve this job. You just have to explain why.

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