Panel Interviews

Understanding What Makes Panel Interviews so Difficult, and Tips to Succeed

Panel interviews take place when two or more people interview at the same time. At the surface level, they aren’t terribly different than any other prejob screening. The objective is to gauge your skills and determine if you will be a good fit for the company.

Panel interviews often even have advantages. Usually, they will involve interacting with people from different branches within the company. You might get to meet your future supervisor, someone within company leadership, and a representative from HR.

This makes panel interviews a good opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the job, and generally get a better idea of what the workflow will look like if you are hired.

Unfortunately, many people struggle with them. Proving yourself to one person is hard enough. How do you sell your skills to a full room?

In this article, we examine why panel interviews are so hard and what you can do to succeed.

The Challenges of a Panel Interview

As you might imagine, the primary roadblock to nailing a panel interview is usually psychological. More people equates to more variables and it can be harder to predict what will happen when you are dealing with a group conversation.

There are also unnatural conversational flow aspects to the experience that can—either by accident or design— leave you a little off-kilter.

The people in the room will naturally all have unique personalities. It can be disorienting to try and match their energies and appropriately answer their questions.

All of the people there may also have unique agendas based on the department they represent. This can make it difficult to hit all the right talking points.

Ultimately, however, your objectives remain the same. You want to show off why you are a good fit for the job. To do that, you will need to prepare specifically for the unique circumstances of a panel interview.

Research and Understand the Panel

Try to learn as much about the people you will be speaking with as possible. This can involve everything from what departments they represent to what their personal or professional achievements include.

In the age of LinkedIn and other social media platforms, it is relatively easy to acquire at least a surface-level understanding of what a person is like in the work context.

You certainly don’t want to take this consideration too far. The idea is not to creep— as the kids say— but to understand the panelists’ perspective. If you cannot acquire specific personal information, learn what you can about the company itself.

This will be even easier to accomplish. Most businesses include information about their values on their website. They are actively looking for employees who complement those values. Figure out ways you can frame yourself to the panel that aligns with the company’s stated beliefs.

Make sure that the way you present yourself is authentic. You’ll come across much more natural if you are being yourself.

Anticipate and Prepare for Various Perspectives

Panel interviews often involve multiple perspectives, with each panel member assessing different aspects of your suitability for the role. Be prepared for a diverse range of questions that may cover technical skills, behavioral competencies, and situational scenarios. Take note of any specific requirements mentioned in the job description and think about how your experiences align with these expectations.

Be aware also that follow-up questions may come from any one of the panel members. Questions in panel interviews often start from one person and are then carried over from the next. This is done to keep the job applicant on their toes, but it also has the practical purpose of making sure that your qualifications are deemed suitable by all parties present.

Practice Makes Perfect

Having a few friends run panel questions with you may feel uncomfortable but it can be a good way to prepare for the big day. Simulations aren’t always great for capturing the actual experience of an interview. What they instead do is loosen you up, allowing you to walk in (figuratively or literally) feeling prepared.

If you are looking for a more realistic experience, there may be opportunities in your orbit that you aren’t aware of. The college students reading this will most likely have access to some sort of career services resource at their school. There, they should find many resources for interview prep, including simulation opportunities.

Your community also may have some form of career readiness center that will have similar offerings. As you practice, focus on giving nice crisp answers, but also work on how you present yourself. Remember: during the interview, they aren’t just determining if you are qualified. They also want to get a good feel of what it will be like to work with you. Putting your best foot forward is a great way to establish yourself not only as a good candidate but also as an awesome future coworker.


One of the important things to remember is that interviews take place after HR has already decided that your skills are a good match for the position. They are basically trying to verify the assumption that you are a good fit.

Panel interviews are intimidating. Sometimes, they are deliberately made to be that way. However, the essential fact of the matter is that you are being interviewed because you have skills and characteristics that could be of value to the company.

You should go into the interview with that firmly on the mind. It’s very often the case that people enter job screening situations feeling that they need to wow their potential employer. And they do, but they also need to feel confident and comfortable enough to determine if the company is a good fit for them.

Remember: they aren’t doing you a favor. You may need the salary and benefits that they are offering, but they need someone with your skills. It’s a mutually beneficial dynamic in which both parties have something of importance to leverage.

Go in with confidence. Impress them, but don’t forget to make sure the company impresses you in the process.