7 Best Tips on How to Prepare for a Panel Interview
The hiring process can be long and arduous. And as all business owners and executives know, the longer the ordeal, the more time and resources are lost that could go to helping your company thrive.
That said, hiring quality candidates is also integral to your company’s long-term success. A great way to save time and still find a great fit? The panel interview.
Panel interviewing is when multiple people participate in an interview at once, working together to ask questions to identify the best candidate.
Here are seven tips to prepare for a great panel interview.
Know When a Panel Interview is Appropriate
While a viable interview style for many scenarios, there are certain circumstances when a panel interview makes more sense than others.
For example, panel interviews are great for positions central to company communication and teamwork. These could be HR, marketing, public relations, or customer service roles. A candidate will need to possess sufficient abilities to tactfully converse with others, often many others at once in all of these areas.
A panel interview is an excellent opportunity for candidates to showcase their communication and people skills in real-time for these types of roles. How someone answers questions and engages with various group members throughout the interview can give deeper insight than the interview questions themselves.
Additionally, panel interviews are a great way to reduce the length of the interview process. For vetting procedures to be fair and equitable from candidate to candidate, multiple interviewers must get to speak to them. But this can sometimes drag the process on far longer than your company or the prospective new hire would like.
A panel interview is a great option if your company is looking to fill a position quickly, without cutting corners on quality and consistency.
Choose Your Panel Wisely
Everyone who attends a panel interview should be there for a purpose. You should never have someone participate in the hiring process because they’re your favorite coworker or want extra people in the room.
Choose your panel strategically. As part of this lineup, you should represent various departments of your organization to show a comprehensive picture of the culture and values of your company.
For example, if you hire a department supervisor, it may be wise to ask an employee who would report to this candidate to join the panel. This demonstrates to the candidate that your organization values the opinions and experiences of all workers.
Consider how each panelist will engage with this candidate and what meaningful insights you can gain from each person. Having someone from HR present is always a good idea to protect the interview’s integrity.
If you’re hiring a marketing specialist, having a company owner on the panel can help illuminate the company’s mission and check out if the candidate’s values are in line with that. On the other hand, if you’re trying to fill a highly technical role in IT or web development, you’ll want to have someone else on the panel who is familiar with the technical aspects of the position.
The more carefully you choose your panelists, the more you stand to get out of an interview.
Have an Interviewer Meeting Beforehand
Studies on interview techniques and preparedness have shown that under-planning is the single greatest error an interviewer can make. When it comes to a panel interview, it is even more critical that each interviewer is adequately informed and prepared to go into an interview.
With so many people in a room, under-preparedness can be even more obvious to the candidate. That’s because inconsistencies can show more clearly from person to person, and it’s highly noticeable if everyone isn’t on the same page. You definitely can’t “fake it till you make it” through a panel interview.
Get the team together at a designated time before the interview date to discuss a game plan. Identify specific goals of the interview based on the position requirements. Provide each person with a copy of the applicant’s resume, cover letter, and any other provided resources.
The more your panel goes into the interview as a unified front, the more likely it is that the candidate will feel respected and valued, and the more you stand to learn about the applicant through the process.
Have All Panelists Arrive Early
The more participants you have in an interview process, the more likely things will go awry. That’s why everyone must arrive with ample time before the interview is scheduled to begin.
Set an arrival time for panelists at least 15 minutes before the candidate is scheduled to arrive. Everyone being present and prepared to begin on time shows respect to the interviewee and the process as a whole. It can look bad and put a real damper on a productive conversation if a panelist arrives late to the interview.
Plus, arriving early allows everyone to check in and review strategy. While this may seem excessive, these small details help companies get the most out of a panel interview.
Introduce The Panel
Before diving into questions, ensure that everyone on the panel introduces themselves. All panelists should share their name, role at the company, and perhaps share how long they’ve been with the organization or a fun fact about themselves.
Take five minutes to do this at the start. While some may say it’s a waste of time, it can help to humanize the company from the beginning. It also helps the candidate feel more like a part of the group.
Thorough introductions also allow the candidate to understand everyone’s unique role, empowering them to ask specific, meaningful questions during the meeting.
Each Panelist Takes Certain Topics
If each panelist focuses on different topics of questioning, the process will move smoothly. Discuss each panelist’s specific questions with the team beforehand to ensure there is no redundancy.Cutting down on overlap while ensuring that all areas of concern are covered allows you to get to know the candidate from all angles with efficiency.
Plus, by giving panelists “ownership” of specific topics, it will be easier for the panel to answer questions from the candidate. If each person is the designated expert in one area, it should help eliminate any awkward silences or panelists talking over each other to answer the same question.
Debrief After the Interview
Right after the interview ends, take some time to discuss initial impressions, feelings, and concerns immediately as a group. While it’s wise to take notes during the interview for later reference, the experience will never be fresher than it is at that moment.
This is a great opportunity to seek clarity from other panelists if you were uncertain about an aspect of the candidate’s work history, experience, or how they answered a question.
If everyone else felt positive about something that you didn’t, there’s a chance you’re bringing your own internal bias to the table. The sooner this is identified, the better.
Between 2020 and 2030, there is a projected increase of approximately 11.9 million jobs in the U.S. alone.
As companies continue to expand during this decade of growth, they will need tried and true techniques for finding the best candidates for open positions. A panel interview, when conducted skillfully, may just be the tool you’re looking for.
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