Conducting Effective Panel Interviews

Written by Dani Rice, Co-Founder & Chief Mental Health Employer Solutions Provider at Empowered Partnerships

Panel interviews have become more popular within the interviewing space as it can save time for both the Candidate and the Employers as it’s one meeting to meet with multiple team members. It’s terrific for everyone to have an opportunity to meet the candidate, ask questions and see how the candidate responds to the team.  If done correctly, Panel Interviews are terrific. Here are just a few ways to ensure success.

 1.  Prepare the Candidate

There is nothing worse than walking into what is expected to be a one on one interview, only to see 5 people lined up in a a row. One of the best things Employers can do is to prepare the Candidate and let them know who they should expect on the panel.  Share with the Candidate names and titles of everyone who may be in the interview.  This will allow the Candidate to be prepared, do their research and be mentally ready for the interview.

When the Candidate arrives, ensure the Interviewers are introduced and outline the plan for the interview so the Candidate knows what to expect.

2.  Prepare the Interviewers

One person should be designated to start and end the interview. This person will ensure that everyone has a chance to ask questions as well as keeps an eye on the time to ensure the interview ends at the expected time so it doesn’t run over.  This person will introduce everyone, and wrap up at the end of the interview ensuring the Candidate has clear outline of what to expect after the interview ends.

All the interviewers should have interview questions that pertain to their area of expertise.  If there is a team-member in the interview, dedicate their questions towards teamwork, how the Candidate manages conflict within a team etc.  Subject Matter Experts can dedicate questions around the Candidates level of expertise in their field, etc.  Having an outline of questions for each interviewer gives them a guideline and allows everyone to be a part of the conversation.

Allow the Interviewers time to review their questions, and meet 10 minutes early before the interview to make sure that everyone is ready.  Interviewers, especially those who are new to interviewing or don’t do it often, can get nervous, and it’s important to calm their nerves as well as the Candidates.

3.  Allow time for conversation

An interview shouldn’t be a firing squad of questions to the Candidate.  One question, may spark an answer that was unexpected that leads a discussion about a topic that was unanticipated.  This is good!  Allow the conversations to flow, use this time to see how the Candidate  interacts with the team, as well as how the team interacts with the Candidate. This is usually the best time to see if there is a personality fit within the team.  All of the participants relax a little bit, and allow their nerves to be calmed.

4.  Share contact information with the Candidate

Before the Candidate leaves, ensure they have the contact information of everyone in the room. That can be easily done by sharing business cards with the Candidate. This allows the Candidate to send a personalized thank you to each person on the panel.

5.  Debrief with the panel

After the Candidate leaves, schedule an additional 30 minutes for the panel to talk and discuss their thoughts on the Candidate. Appoint one person to take notes and gather information from everyone, so all the documentation is together.

6.  Final Decision Meeting

After all of the interviews are completed, schedule a meeting so the entire panel can meet and help make a decision on the final Candidate if necessary.  This allows everyone to reconvene and discuss any last minute thoughts before a final decision will be made

7.  Candidate Communication

Appoint one person to  make the formal offer to the selected Candidate, and notify all the other Candidates once that person has accepted. This ensures that every Candidate is aware of the decision, and the communication of the decision will be made.

Mastering a Panel Interview can do wonders for team work, in that there is an entire team of people participating in the decision of the next hire. If done correctly, and with a little planning, companies will find this to be a success factor in making great hiring decisions.