What to Expect From a Virtual Panel Interview

Cody Collins

Advice from someone who just had one

COVID-19 has changed many things, one of which is the interviewing process.

Almost all interviews are virtual now. The positive of such is that you don’t have to take a day of PTO from work and avoid questions from your coworkers about why you're taking the day off. The negative is that it can be harder to make a good impression or be personable over a video call than meeting in person.

For the foreseeable future, interviews will be virtual. So if you're looking to change companies, expect something different than what you’re used to.

Most of the process may be virtual now, but it may still contain panel interviews.

What are panel interviews

Panel interviews are when you, the person interviewing for a job, meet with multiple people in the company at once. It could be a video call with you and two employees from the company, or you and four employees. It could theoretically be as many employees as possible from the company you are interested in. But I’ve never heard of a panel interview with more than four employees in it.

The main difference between pre-covid times and now is that you are doing the interview virtually. Pre-covid you would likely gather in a small conference. Now you’re all gathered in one virtual room.

My experience

I had my own panel interview recently. It was me and four employees from the company I am interested in.

I’ve had interviews with two people at once, but never four. I didn’t know what to expect. To tell the truth, I was a little intimated. But now that it is complete, here is how it went and what to be aware of.

It started off regularly, with small talk and introductions until everyone was in the meeting. To be expected in virtual, pandemic times, one person had technical issues. But those were straightened out immediately and didn’t cause any problems.

Then, similar to what I expect most panel interviews are like, came the flurry of questions. Each interviewer had questions lined up and ready to ask me. After answering a question there may be a follow-up from the person who asked the question, or from someone else. Or your answer may suffice and they’ll move on to a different question.

Most of these questions were behavioral or situational. Be prepared with examples to answer these questions. I drew upon past experiences from my job to answer each question. Use this time to highlight your strengths and at the end of an answer show the “lessons learned” from each of these experiences.

After answering all the questions, it was my turn. I was able to my questions now. I had prepared questions beforehand; multiple questions each about the role, the company, and the industry. These questions allowed me to learn more about my potential future coworkers, as well as turn the interview into more of a discussion.

Issues that occurred

As expected, the two issues I thought would occur, did. If you’ve ever been in virtual meetings you can probably guess what they are.

The first is people talking over one another — when you take yourself off mute to talk, only for someone else to do the same at the exact same moment. In-person you can read social cues and know when someone is about to talk. It’s not as easy virtually. Surprisingly this only happened once so it was not much of an issue.

The other issue was the timing and silence between my questions. Most of my questions were for all interviewers to provide input on. There would occasionally be a pause after I asked the question, as no one wanted to interrupt the other. Or after some of the interviewers answered my question, I would respond, thank, or acknowledge, and then pause allowing anyone else to offer additional insight. This could have been avoided if I asked my questions to one person individually and used their name, but I wanted multiple people's input on each question.

Overall, the virtual panel interview went about as smoothly as possible. The “issues” were minuscule. If you have one coming up, hopefully, this information is helpful and can put your mind to ease.

One last thing, be confident. 9 out of 10 times they’re interviewing you because you have the technical skills or experience to do this job correctly. They just need to make sure you’re personality is a fit for their group. Show them all the great things about you.

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