How to conduct a panel interview
How do you make sure they work for your business and your candidates
Panel interviews can be a very efficient part of the recruitment process. If several members of your organisation wish to interview an applicant it saves time arranging multiple appointments. However, they can be quite daunting for a candidate, and potentially damaging if not done well. Here are our tips for how to conduct a panel interview successfully.
When deciding on how to conduct a panel interview the setting can make all the difference in terms of how comfortable a candidate is, and how well they perform. We'd suggest making it as informal as possible – so no sitting in a row in a boardroom facing the applicant – unless you specifically want to see how they fair in that kind of situation. Ensure everyone is comfortable and can see each other, without feeling overcrowded. It's also worth reading our article on 7 foolproof interviewing techniques.
The panel members
You may have a clear view on this already, but ensure everyone on the interview panel has a good reason for being there, and that they are all looking for something different. We'd recommend a maximum of three panelists, unless it's a particularly pivotal role. Panel members should also get on well together, so there won't be any personality or ego clashes in the room.
Once you've established the panel, ensure everyone has a role. During the interview, one person should take the lead, welcome the candidate and introduce the others. Other members should purely be fact-finders with set questions they want to ask, for example, to analyse specific technical skills. The leader should be prepared to field questions from the candidate to relevant panel members at the appropriate time.
For a candidate, there's nothing worse than turning up to a panel interview with half the panel underprepared, or for there to be confusion over who says what and when. Therefore, ensure all panel members have read the CV, job specification and other relevant information and agree in advance the order of proceedings. Each panel member should know what it is they are looking for, and have a clear picture of their ideal candidate. You can learn more about how to conduct a job interview here.
It may sound obvious, but it can be very easy for an interviewer to "switch off" if it's not their question. The real benefit of having a panel is being able to listen out for specific things the candidate says, and to follow up on them if someone else neglects to. The candidate may also use an answer to elaborate on a previous response, which may have relevance to more than one panel member.
When the panel convenes after the interview (which should always be as soon as possible), all members should be able to contribute to the full discussion to give a fair recount of their impressions.
Or for more employer advice read our other articles here.