Handling your next panel interview

Hiring managers and departments at financial firms screen their applicants in all sorts of different ways. They talk to them on the phone, via Skype, via email, in person during one-on-one interviews, and more. There's one form of job interview that many regular applicants either haven't encountered or haven't gotten accustomed to, though: the panel-style interview.

Interviewing with one person, in some ways, is easy enough: you've got one set of eyes to connect with, and one set of ideals that you have to match. Interviewing with a panel is much different—the interviewers will have different skill sets, and will be looking to analyze different aspects of your experience and personality. It's a tricky balance—but with the help of the tips listed below, you can be sure to ace the interview the next time you "face off" with a panel of employees.

Get to know the panel
One of the keys to interviewing in any form is preparation. If you can find out who will be interviewing you, then you can decide which of your strengths you need to emphasize, and what kind of questions you can expect. For instance: if you find that the human resources manager will be on the panel, you'll want to go out of your way to ensure you dress according to the company's culture. Say you're applying for an accounting job, and you find that the manager of the division you'll potentially be working for will be on the panel. In that case you'd want to dedicate a significant amount of time to demonstrating your technical proficiencies in an in-depth, sector-specific manner. Knowing who's on the panel helps you to prepare, which will help you land the job.

Try and find a balance between speaking to an individual and speaking to the group
If you try to answer each question so that you'll look attractive to each member of the panel, you'll be responding much too generically. If you answer everything with department-specific lingo, you'll end up on the other end of the spectrum. The key is to start each answer looking at the person who asked the specific query, then try to link that answer to your broader skills and begin moving your gaze along every person on the panel. Your goal should be balance.

Don't be afraid to emphasize your teamwork abilities
During a regular interview, it's understandable to be reticent about emphasizing how open you are to teamwork. After all, you don't want to make the hiring manager think you're planning on leaning on the talents of your coworkers! During a panel interview, though, the atmosphere is different. The company wouldn't have arranged your interview in this manner if they did not value the overall team's health as much as they did any one individual. So if the topic comes up, don't be afraid to stress how great you are when collaborating with fellow workers—that's surely what the panel wants to hear.

At the end of the interview, ask questions pertinent to the whole panel
Just as you should alter your preparations, you should alter your conclusions. You don't want to "box" any members of the panel out of the discussion, so keep the questions you ask yourself general and open-ended. That way, you'll leave having made an impression on every person in the room—which is what you have to do if you want your next panel interview to turn into a job offer.