Choosing to conduct a panel interview can be a great way to speed up your hiring process, especially if there are multiple stakeholders involved. However, just like any interview, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your panel interview is as successful and effective as possible. After all, with more people involved, you’ll need a bit more structure and organisation to be able to deliver a five-star onsite interview experience to candidates.
Here are a few tips you can implement to ensure your next panel interview is successful and positive for both your business and the candidate.
1. Determine whether a panel interview is appropriate
It’s important to realise that a panel interview may not be appropriate in all situations. For example, if the role requires candidates to be able to build strong relationships, it might be difficult to identify if they have this skill during a panel interview as its less intimate than a one-on-one interview and the candidate’s attention is often divided. However, if the role requires candidates to be able to function under pressure from multiple stakeholders, then a panel interview can be a great way to see how they would react in similar situations.
As a result, before committing to a panel interview, take some time to evaluate the role and its responsibilities to see if this strategy will help you identify the candidate’s suitability to the job.
2. Choose each interviewer carefully
The more people in the room, the greater chance the interview could be derailed and prolonged. So try to keep the number of panelists to essential people only—aim to have a minimum of three and a maximum of five interviewers in the room.
When putting together your panelists, carefully consider people from the organisation who could offer valuable insight into the candidate’s skills and whether they’re a right fit for the role, team and company. For example, choosing the hiring manager and a colleague who would be working closely with the candidate as panelists will be beneficial for both you and the candidate. In fact, 36%1 of job seekers claim that having an interview with the hiring manager and other potential teammates can help them develop a positive connection with the company.
Other appropriate panelists would be the relevant department head and an HR representative. But make sure they understand what the role will entail and are fully invested in the hiring process.
3. Appoint each interviewer with a role
You don’t want the candidate to arrive for their interview only to be approached by five different people welcoming them at the same time. So consider giving each panelist a role to help create some structure and organisation before, during and after the panel interview.
Choose one panelist to be the ‘leader’—the person who will welcome the candidate, introduce other panelists, explain how the interview will be conducted and offer next steps afterwards. This person should be able to help create a welcoming and non-intimidating atmosphere for the candidate, and help put them at ease if they appear to be nervous.
With three to five people in the room, it can be confusing to know who asks questions when, so create a loose script of how the interview will unfold. Things like who will ask which questions, when each panelist will ask their questions and who will answer any questions from the candidate, are all things that should be decided before the panel interview.
4. Loop the candidate in
Interviews can already be uncomfortable and nerve-racking for job seekers, but showing up to an interview only to find out it’s with multiple people can throw candidates off and affect their performance. Plus, 13%2 of Australian job seekers state that they’re more likely to trust a company they’ve applied to when the hiring manager or recruiter shares relevant information and expectations about the interview process. As a result, it’s important to remember to always loop candidates in about what their interview will entail.
When scheduling the interview with the candidate, make sure to communicate that it will be conducted in panel format. Also, let the candidate know the names and job titles of each panelist, and maybe even provide a little bit of background information on each panelist to help the candidate have a better idea of who they will be meeting with.
5. Create a welcoming and comfortable environment for candidates
Compared to one-on-one interviews, a panel interview can feel more interrogative and intimidating to job seekers. As a result, try to create a welcoming and comfortable environment to help put candidates at ease.
To do this, prepare the space well before the interview and make sure it’s tidy. Ask all panelists to arrive 10-15 mins early to avoid any latecomers or interruptions when the interview does begin. And when the candidate arrives, ensure someone (preferably the identified ‘leader’) is there to welcome them and accompany them to the interview space.
By being prepared and ready for the candidate, you can not only help them feel more welcomed and at ease, but delivering a positive interview experience can potentially help your employer brand.
Panel interviews can be an efficient way for your organisation to fill open roles as quickly as possible. And by taking the time to prepare both the panelists and candidate for a panel interview, you can help ensure the process is effective in bringing you closer to your next great hire.
1Methodology: This survey was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 1,000 currently employed Australians in 2018.
2Methodology: This survey was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 1,000 currently employed Australians in June-July 2016.