Surviving the Firing Squad: 6 Tips for a Successful Group Interview

The phone rings! Your potential new employer has invited you in for an interview … a panel interview. You might wonder what a panel interview is and why you will be involved with one. A panel interview is a situation where two or more interviewers are present to speak to a candidate. Usually, various departments are represented and participate throughout the process.

Does the thought of having to impress a room full of people cause fear to seize your chest? Anxiety about panel interviews is common and understandable; after all, you will be speaking to a group of people with different viewpoints and strategies. Questions will be broad and complex. But as someone who has dealt with these a great deal, I am happy to share some tips with you about how to ace the panel interview.

**1) Preparation is Always Key.** It might feel odd at first, but do not be afraid to ask the human resources representative (or whoever is setting up the interview) for a list of people that will be involved with your interview process. Learn their roles within the organization.
You will also want to always research the organization itself. Educate yourself as much as possible about what they do, how they contribute to their industry, and their mission.
Another very important step is to ensure your resume references are up to date.

**2) Practice Makes Perfect.** Just like you would with a traditional interview, you should practice for the panel interview beforehand. The Internet provides a plethora of resources specific to different interview types, as well as industry-specific interview questions. Use these tools to gain confidence and prepare. Review possible interview questions and practice responding to position-specific questions.

If you are recently transiting out of the military, or have not yet held a civilian position, it is important that you also practice translating your military experience into civilian terms. It can be a daunting task, so give yourself plenty of time to find and work with organizations that can lend a hand from resume-writing to translating terminology or even networking with employers on your behalf.

**3) First Impressions Matter.** No doubt you have heard it before - show up on time! Arriving even a minute past the appointment time shows a lack of interest and possible disorganization on your part. Plus, arriving late might cause you to feel flustered, meaning you will not present the confident, competent demeanor that interviewers want to see.
Bring only the essentials (a pen and notepad in most cases) and put your phone out of sight and out of mind.

When you are introduced to the panel, take the time to shake every person’s hand. Do not be afraid to extend your hand first. By doing so, you are conveying that you are excited to be there and ready for this opportunity.

Something else to remember? First impressions also include your Internet presence. Clean up any social media profiles before you even start your job search in order to present a professional front. Make profiles private if you do not want employers to view them. Also, update your LinkedIn account to reflect recently acquired skills.

**4) Make a Connection with All the Interviewers.** Once everyone is introduced and the panel begins to ask questions, you will be inclined to make eye contact with the person whose question you are answering. However, it is equally important to scan the room and make eye contact with everyone else. This will allow you to get a read on each of them as well as engage them in your answer.
Do not be afraid to take notes during your interview. This can help you remember any follow-up questions you might want to ask. Eager candidates with thoughtful questions stand out to employers.

**5) Speak to Your Strengths.** As a veteran, you are the most unique type of candidate. Veterans have several unique characteristics that make them an asset to any organization. From collaboration and teamwork to problem-solving and leadership abilities, it is no wonder that so many organizations have committed to hiring veterans.

One of the things that sets veterans apart is their commitment to service. Veterans are very mission-conscious and they work hard to ensure the job is done right. Employers want reliable employees. They look for someone who is committed to the team, able to work under pressure, and ready to be a leader. In fact, many employers now have specific web pages for veteran and military-experienced applicants.

**6) Closing the Deal.** As the interview comes to close, make sure that you personally thank each participant. Shake their hand and reinforce your interest in the position. When you get home, send a thank-you note to each interviewer. This is often a component that sets candidates apart. While this is an important step, make sure you do not send out the same cookie-cutter thank-you note to everyone; customize your note to leave them with one last positive impression of you.

*Jenny Nichols is the executive director of public relations for MyComputerCareer and lives in Holly Springs, NC. She holds an advanced degree in Higher Education and Student Development as well as national certifications for resume writing, editing, career-coaching, and facilitating career development. She is happy to discuss any feedback or answer any questions about this content. Jenny Nichols can be reached at*