Conquering the Multi-Person Interview

By: Keira Simmonds

I got up early the day of my interview to get ready. I chose my best professional outfit and looked the part. The job I was interviewing for was in a different field than I was used to and it was for a more advanced position. I was excited about the position and confident. After all, I was not a stranger to the interview game. I was aware and proud of the skills I had to offer and even knew the areas I would need to grow in, if I were offered the role. However, nothing prepared me for what was about to happen that day.

I arrived at the site of my interview and was greeted by my potential supervisor with whom I communicated with via email over the past few weeks. She was very nice and cheerful. She immediately put me at ease. She let me know I was going to be interviewed by members of the board, but what I did not know was the ENTIRE board was there. I had never been in an interview with more than one person at a time. To sit in front of a panel was an entirely new experience for me.

There I sat in the front of the room with seven professionals sitting around a U-shaped table setup with their eyes fixed solely on yours truly. As they all went around the table and introduced themselves, I thought to myself – I am never going to remember these people’s names. So the first lesson I learned was to take notes. When in an interview with multiple people, taking notes in your padfolio and writing down the names of the people in the room can prove invaluable. By utilizing your notes, you can answer their questions and also refer to them by name. It also allows you to personalize a thank you letter for each individual after the interview is finished.

Once the questions started, I realized I felt conscious of all the eyes on me. I was a bit flustered, to say the least. Feeling nervous while in the spotlight is common. There is a fear of judgment that comes with being center stage. However, it is always easier when you are speaking from an area of expertise and who is a better expert regarding your life than you. However, a great tip to combat feeling flustered is to pause when asked a question. Don’t jump in right away. Take a moment to think and construct your answer. If possible, choose something that excites you. Taking your time to formulate your answer in your mind, will allow you to elaborate on skills and experiences you are proud of and present a thoughtful answer rather than ramble and seeming unsure.

During the panel interview, I kept feeling the need to look at everyone when answering my questions. Looking back, I must have seemed flighty as my eyes darted quickly between one person and the next. When you are answering questions, mainly address the person who asked you the question. To ensure you are covering the room, it is perfectly fine to choose one or two other people to glance at. However, do not feel pressured to make eye contact with everyone.

The next time you are asked to interview for a position, feel free to ask about the format of the interview and with whom you will be interviewing. Being mentally prepared for what is to come increases your confidence.

Lastly, preparing for a panel interview is otherwise the same as preparing for any interview. You will want to give examples using the STAR method (discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing) and be prepared for introductory, behavioral and situational interview questions. Remember, interviewing is a skill that gets better with practice.

If you would like to practice your interview skills with multiple persons, ask friends and family to assist by pretending to be your interview panel. Doing mock interviews are a great way to get valuable feedback and insight into how well you are presenting yourself.
For more help with interviewing, check out the resources provided by the UF Career Connections Center.

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