Mistakes to avoid during a panel interview

Many people are well studied on the do's and don'ts of job interviewing, but what about when you're interviewing with a big panel of individuals from the company you're applying to? That's a foreign scenario to many people, and as a result, mistakes are often made. Listed below are some traps you don't want to fall into during a panel interview. You'd do well to study them intently—if you ace a panel interview, you're a shoo-in for the job in question. 

Avoid talking about any talents that don't relate directly to the job
Time is a major factor during interviews. That's especially true for panel interviews, which will likely bring together many people with busy schedules. Their time is valuable, and you don't want to waste it. So don't spend any of your time talking about experience that doesn't relate directly to the job at hand.

"Make sure you're including specific terms and skills that they're mentioning, and be prepared to talk about how you've utilized those skills so they can immediately see how you can hit the ground running in that position," Alexandra Levit, a Chicago-based career-trend consultant and author, explained to MarketWatch. "[Applicants mistakenly] think that just because they've gotten to a certain level of their career that all they have to do is talk about themselves and their experience will speak for itself."

There's no time for extraneous topics during a panel interview—the tone of these meetings is much different, so stick to the basics. The panel will appreciate your professionalism for doing so. 

Don't try to talk to everyone at once
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during a panel interview is trying to win over everyone all at once. Instead, address your answers to one individual, then try and tie your response to more general statements, which you can address to the whole group.

"During the interview, it may feel like questions are being fired at you from different angles, and you may wonder who to address when you answer a question," wrote Hannah Morgan, a motivational speaker and expert career manager, for U.S. & World News. "The key is to make regular eye contact with the person who has asked the question. Once you have finished your answer, quickly scan the expressions and body language of the other panelists. You're hoping to see smiles, head nods, or body language that indicates they're listening and engaged."

In short, your goal should be to win over the group, but to do so one-by-one, instead of all at once. These people aren't all on the panel because they think the same way—that'd be pretty redundant. Instead, they all have different viewpoints. So try to appeal to them all over the course of the entire interview, instead of wasting time trying to appeal to everyone with the same sentence or statement.

Don't try and be generic to please everyone—be creative instead

On that similar note, you never want to sacrifice specificity just because you're in a panel interview. If you're thinking about skipping over an explanation of your technical prowess because only a couple people in the room would understand the jargon, for example, think again: you want to appeal to these individuals separately, so you never want to skip over a topic just because it doesn't appeal to everyone. In short—as one industry expert explains below—you never want to hesitate to be creative. 

"Know how to tackle challenges and opportunities in a way no one will find in a textbook," advised Mark Stevens, CEO of a global marketing firm, in an interview with CNN. "Einstein used to approach his theories by thinking of childlike fantasies and working backwards to reality. Talk about how a [creative] approach is built into your DNA. You will be marketing yourself as a one-of-a-kind."

Don't miss out on networking opportunities
There's a standard code of conduct that most people follow after a regular interview: they leave their resume with the hiring manager, collect a business card, and send out a thank-you note for the interview shortly after. Some people think things are different for panel interviews—but we disagree vehemently.

You want to behave in the exact same manner, in this regard, during a panel interview as you would during a regular one. Bring enough copies of your resume so that everyone on the panel can have their own, for starters. Be sure to collect everyone's business cards after the meeting, and don't be afraid to send them all personalized thank-you notes for spending time on your interview. If you do so, you'll be able to avoid making one of the mistake's that many people make during panel interviews – and it may well lead to your next job.