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Use panel interviews to save time, improve hiring odds

by on
in Centerpiece,Hiring,Human Resources

panel interviewShuffling candidates between one-on-one interviews with different managers is time consuming and can produce assessments that are vastly different or inaccurate.

That’s why more businesses are including panel interviews as a tool in their hiring belts. The method is especially useful to help small businesses—who value close ties in the workplace—to gauge how candidates interact with other employees.

However, panel interviews involve a lot more than simply gathering people in a room to pepper applicants with questions.

Use the following tips to organize and conduct panel interviews that result in good hiring decisions:

Focus your preparation. Determine the skills, personality traits and abilities that the job requires. Create a rating system or checklist to help panelists assess candidates.  

Select the right panelists. Choose no more than four or five panelists, including the hiring manager and employees who would be working with the candidate. Large panels can be unwieldy and unnecessarily intimidate candidates. Select a diverse group.

Choose a main interviewer or facilitator who will lead the questioning and get other panelists involved when necessary. In small businesses, the owner can lead the panel.

Prepare the panelists. Decide which topics each panel member will cover. Give them copies of the candidate’s résumé well in advance to help them prepare questions related to the candidate’s qualifications. Panelists should write their own questions and feel free to follow-up on others’ inquiries. Ask each panelist to participate in questioning.  

Listen more, talk less. Don’t allow one panelist to dominate the interview.  Listen carefully to candidate responses to questions posed by other panelists. While the candidate is answering, think about follow-up questions that clarify responses and reveal more about the interviewee. Keep the questioning low-key and not interrogatory or accusatory. Take notes.

Pros and cons of panels

Advantages: The format compensates for weak one-on-one interviewers and gets them involved in questioning. Everyone assesses the candidate using the same responses and information. The panel can meet immediately after interviews, while impressions are fresh, to make decisions about the candidate.

Disadvantages: Inexperienced managers don’t develop one-on-one interviewing skills. Panels may stifle managers who are good at one-on-one sessions but feel inhibited in a group. Some candidates may feel intimidated.

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