Panel interviews occur any time you are interviewed by more than one person. Along with one on one, they are the most common type of interview that you'll encounter. Panels were once reserved for people interviewing for high level positions. Today, however, they are quite standard for all types of jobs from entry level jobs to top level positions.
Employers use panel or committee interviews primarily for two reasons:
Sometimes each interviewer on the panel plays an equal role in conducting the interview and has an equal say in who will be hired for the job. Other times, one person will clearly lead the interview. Typically, this is the person who has the ultimate authority to make a hiring decision. In this case, the other members of the panel, while not making the final hiring decision, will provide important feedback which will influence the final hiring decision.
The biggest concern people have about panel job interviews lies in knowing where to look. When a question is being asked, look at the person who is asking the question. When you are answering a question, look primarily at the person who asked the question, but also glance around the room to make eye contact with and acknowledge the other people in the room.
It is perfectly acceptable to make brief notes during a job interview. If you have the opportunity to quickly and unobtrusively write down the names of each person in panel, you will be able to remember and use their names throughout the interview.
When you are called and invited to a job interview, say to the person who is scheduling the interview, "Who will be interviewing me?" If you are given more than one name, you'll know you will be having a panel job interview, and you'll be able to mentally prepare for that. Also, if you write down the names of the interviews at that time, you will be able to avoid the stress of remembering names when you're introduced during the interview.
Ask for business cards from each member of the panel and send an interview thank you letter to each member of the panel after the interview.
Follow these specific tips for preparing for a panel job interview, as well as the general tips on preparing for a job interview, and you will make a great impression at your next panel interview.