By Barbara Mitchell
Q: We frequently do panel interviews because my manager likes them, but I find these situations awkward. Any tips on how to make them more effective?
A: Like you, I’m not a fan of panel interviews, but some organizations (especially the federal government) use them because they can save time and cut down on the challenges of setting up multiple interviews with the same candidates.
To be successful, panel interviews have to be carefully planned so that each person on the panel can gather the information he or she needs to make a hiring recommendation and so that the candidate is left with a positive impression of the organization. It takes work to orchestrate the process successfully.
Start by deciding who should be on the panel, making sure to represent a variety of opinions. The hiring manager should take the lead in putting the panel together and, if possible, involve all decision makers in the process. You should choose the panelists based on who the candidate will interact with most if hired. I like the idea of including peers on the panel as well as people who will report to the candidate if he or she is hired.
To be successful, panel interviews have to be carefully planned so that each person on the panel can gather the information he or she needs to make a hiring recommendation.
After selecting the panel and scheduling the interview, develop questions. Each interviewer should focus on a different aspect of the position. For example, if you’re hiring a new human resources director, one interviewer might focus on the staffing process while another might ask questions about the candidate’s benefits experience. Planning ahead ensures that the panelists don’t all ask the same question.
The hiring manager should try to gather input directly from panelists immediately following the interview. But if that’s not possible, the manager should set up a process to collect each interviewer’s impressions before making a final decision.
The candidate should be notified in advance that the interview will involve a panel and be given the names of each panelist. Don’t surprise your candidate with a panel of eight people if he or she is expecting to meet one on one—that’s not a good way to impress a person you may want to hire.
The hiring manager should introduce the panelists, and, as always, the candidate should be treated with dignity and respect. Remember, every candidate is a potential employee, and possibly a potential member. You want your applicant to gain a good impression of your organization, even if he or she doesn’t get the job.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].