5 Tips for Acing a Panel Interview

A normal job interview is stressful enough. Now imagine pitching yourself to several art directors, marketing managers and graphic designers in a panel interview setting. Nervous?

According to a survey by The Creative Group, a majority of executives (86 percent) said one-on-one interviews are the most effective. But panel interviews ranked second – ahead of interviews during a meal, over the phone or by video. The more senior the creative position you’re applying for, the more likely you’ll be meeting with several people from the organization at the same time.

The idea of a panel interview may be intimidating, but this format isn’t much more difficult than others. Here are five tips to help you make a strong impression and to land your next creative job.

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

5 Tips for Making a Strong Impression in Your Panel Interview:

  1. Do some recon. When the company or agency contacts you about scheduling an in-person interview, ask for the names of the people you’ll be meeting with. Then learn as much as you can about those individuals using LinkedIn, the employer’s website and a general online search. Find their job titles as well as what they look like. The more you know about who you’ll be facing, the better prepared you’ll be for the panel interview.
  2. Brainstorm. Once you’ve figured out who’s who, think about what each interviewer is likely to ask. For example, if one of the panelists is a content strategist, you might get a question about how you’d approach a social media placement versus a digital or print ad. A panel interview that includes a software developer suggests the design position you’re applying for works closely with the IT department, so be prepared to share examples of how you’ve successfully partnered with technology professionals in the past.
  3. Spread the love. One of the most important panel interview tips is to give equal time to each person in the room. When you enter the meeting, greet everyone individually with a firm handshake, friendly smile and comfortable eye contact. If you weren’t able to get their names when you scheduled the meeting, now is the time to write them down.As you answer each interview question, first look at the person who asked it and then the other panelists. Engage your audience. Afterward, shake hands with each interviewer again and thank them for their time. When you get back home, follow up with individual thank-you notes or emails.
  4. Expect the unexpected. With extra players, panel interviews can be unpredictable. The cross-examination could come fast and furious. Interviewers may talk among themselves and topics of discussion may change on a whim. Prepare for all of this – and curveball questions as well.
  5. Conclude with queries of your own. Just like in one-on-one interviews, you’ll probably have a chance to pose questions near the end of the meeting. Here’s an opportunity to show off your professionalism and genuine interest in the organization and role. If you’re applying for a user experience (UX) designer position, for example, you might ask the UX director how success will be measured and what kinds of career paths are available. Aim to build rapport with potential supervisors and peers.

While one-on-one interviews may be more common, it’s important to know how to handle a group of reviewers. The key to thriving in this situation is to expect a wider variety of questions and, to the extent possible, create a dialogue with each person in the room.