How to use panel interviews to hire the right person

Many good managers include their team in the interview process when bringing on someone new; it’s a fantastic way to be inclusive and makes a lot of sense. After all, your team members will be the ones working right alongside the candidate so why wouldn’t you want their buy-in?

However, if done incorrectly, panel interviews actually have the opposite effect of being collaborative and, instead, may be uncomfortable, clunky and ineffective. Even worse, candidates may feel even more unnerved than they already would during a one-on-one style interview.

Instead of “shooting from the hip,” keep these things in mind to successfully conduct a panel interview that is a positive experience for both the interviewee and your team:

Be precise about what you’re looking for: Before the interview, get clear on the core skills that an ideal candidate should possess, based on the actual work and your department’s culture, team dynamics, etc. Define three to five of these and share them with all panel members to lay the groundwork for a productive post-interview internal discussion.

Plan and prepare: When it comes to panel interviews, you really can’t be overprepared. Make a game plan with your team, deciding who will be asking what questions. Take this another step further by preparing follow-up questions if answers aren’t clear. Be sure everyone in the room is in agreement on a ranking or scoring system and has a way to take notes.

Level the playing field: While it may be tempting to veer off onto different conversations, it’s important to ask every candidate the same questions so a fair assessment of relevant skills is given. There may be some slight gray area based on responses or the need for clarification but, in general, the main questions should be the same.

Set the room up for success: A big mistake that is often made during panel interviews is unequal distribution of seating arrangements. Instead of sitting so that it’s your team “against” the interviewee, sit equal distances apart to create a comfortable setting that they will feel confident and relaxed in. Discuss this ahead of time to minimize any awkward shuffling.

Debrief as soon after the interview as possible: Keep the momentum going by prescheduling a team debrief within 24 hours after the interview to gather as a group and review each panelist’s ranking on the questions that were asked. Don’t get bogged down by one person’s opinion on one or two areas. Instead, work with the person to get to the heart of whether the concerns apply to the core skills and cultural nuances. Don’t forget; there are no perfect candidates.

If Avanti can help you source, engage and interview top talent, we would love to talk.

Contact us at [email protected].