Conducting the Panel Interview: 5 Best Strategies for Success
A panel interview is an interview structure that involves a group of interviewers, in the same meeting, who ask questions of a candidate to determine if they are suitable for a job position. A well-thought-out panel interview includes planning your team’s participation, deciding which members will participate in the discussion, and choosing which questions each interviewer will ask the candidate.
Panel Interviews: Pros and Cons
A well-conducted panel interview allows interviewers to combine their various talents, viewpoints, and expertise — resulting in a successful and thorough discussion. Panel interviews can also help eliminate bias and may better identify a well-rounded culture fit because you have multiple stakeholders involved in the hiring process.
However, panels can become a lengthy display of confusion and misalignment when they don’t work well, which is inconvenient for the participants and damaging to the organization. When not planned well, they can sow discord, gum up the decision-making process, and leave a bad impression on the candidate.
Conducting a panel interview requires managing a lot of moving parts. So, we’ve compiled five strategies that hiring managers can use to conduct an effective panel interview and make sure they’re getting the best candidates possible.
1) Decide which members will participate — Choose wisely!
When selecting who will interview candidates, keep in mind who the position’s stakeholders are, who the candidate may work with daily once hired, and who might have specific insight into the job role.
Most interview panels consist of four to six people. They often include someone from Human Resources, the hiring manager, someone from an internal team that the new hire may interact with regularly, and, sometimes, a future teammate.
2) Choose questions each interviewer will ask — be prepared!
The hiring manager generally acts as the leader for the interview, setting the tone with introductions, the company overview, job description, and asking preliminary questions.
The other panel members may act as the subject matter experts and ask technical questions specific to their skills area. They will also help the primary interviewer by asking follow-up questions.
In terms of using an Interview Dive interview script, it is a good idea to meet before you generate your interview script to identify core competencies and specific technical questions together as a group. Then, once you have put together your customized interview questions, choose which questions each interviewer will ask.
3) Prepare your team
Each panel member should be trained in successful interviewing skills and informed ahead of time about their responsibilities on the panel. Panelists should review the job description ahead of any interviews and be provided a copy of each candidate’s resume before their interview to have time to become familiar with the prospect’s background.
Ideally, meet as a team 10 minutes before the start of each interview to review information for the specific candidate. Take this time to review the candidate’s resume, application, the position requirements, the flow of the discussion, and who will ask each question during the interview.
4) Schedule the Interview and the Debrief
This may be one of the most challenging parts of a panel interview. Finding time to get everyone together may be difficult because you are dealing with panel members with varied schedules.
Make sure to block multiple times for the interview to help avoid a lot of back and forth if the candidate can’t make the initially offered time. Keep time zones in mind, especially if you are a remote team, and try to avoid times that are too early or too late for participants. If you are interviewing remotely, make sure that everyone has the appropriate meeting links.
Once your interview is complete, give panel members some time to process the interview privately, and then meet to debrief thoughts and offer input on the candidate to the hiring committee. It is a good idea to schedule this debrief ahead of time to avoid difficulties in getting the panel together again.
5) Have a Plan for Take-Off and Landing
A critical element for any interview is a well-planned introduction and conclusion. The introduction should include a brief review of the job description, a company overview, and an introduction to the interviewers. The conclusion should consist of final thoughts, information about the rest of the process, and subsequent action steps. Make sure that you have thought through and rehearsed these two vital pieces (that often get forgotten). It will ensure a smooth transition into and out of the interview process.
Panel interviews are beneficial because they can help mitigate bias, provide a diversity of views, and utilize the expertise of the whole organization. Coordinating the logistics of scheduling, setting expectations for asking questions, and assessing a candidate together is challenging work. Building a strong team will help you achieve the best possible outcome and is well worth the effort.
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