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Shaun Simmons

Cordant Recruitment


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The ins and outs of effective panel interviews


Panel interviews are a good way of screening job seekers and finding great talent. It's no wonder then that they're becoming increasingly popular among companies competing in a healthy jobs market to land themselves the next shining star.

A panel interview is basically what it says on the tin. One interviewee facing a panel of interviewers. The benefit to the client is it's a chance to open up dialogue with a potential candidate in a different environment than a typical one-to-one interview.  

So what are the pros and cons of using panel interviews?

Panel interviews save time and bring all the decision-makers together at once to gain a rounded view of a candidate. They can also stop companies losing candidates as you are speeding up the process.

The issue with panel interviews from a candidate’s point of view is that they can be daunting, which can affect their performance. It’s difficult for candidates to anticipate questions and therefore prepare and they can become distracted by other interviewers. This is why it is critical to choose the right relevant panel; it can unnerve the candidate if members of the panel are there “just to make up the numbers”.

So if you are asked onto an interviewing panel, how should you prepare?

Effective interviews only happen if everyone on the panel has taken the time to review each application and additional information such as psychometric profiles or social media presence. It’s only when you’ve digested all the information that you can formulate, create and structure your questions.  

It should be a requirement that you have a fully completed Application Form for each applicant, so that all the interviewers are working from the same format, rather than trying to interpret different styles of CV.

It is often forgotten that an interview is a two-way process. The candidate will be assessing whether the organisation is right for them as much as you will be judging the candidate’s suitability. A lot of markets are candidate-driven and prospective employees see an average of four companies before accepting a job offer.

Make a positive impression by ensuring that the candidate feels as though they’re expected. Organise resources well in advance like interview rooms and application materials such as internal tests. Prepare the room fully so that it is welcoming – you want the candidate to excel in the interview, not feel overwhelmed.

Prepare fully by making sure that you understand the requirements of the role you are offering from every perspective, be that technical, sales, admin, or legal. This will also help determine which panel interviewer should ask which question.

So what are the best questions to ask?

Interviews should be structured in such a way that you can identify key elements of a candidate’s experience and suitability in relation to the specific role on offer.

It is advisable to have a scoring sheet that all stakeholders on the panel use. This can be used to score the applicant on the style of answers, body language, technical or sales knowledge and so on.

You can test the interest of the applicant by asking them about their knowledge of the job role, the company, your products, services and competitors, how it's viewed and issues within the market.

  • Pre-planned “Behavioural” or “Competency Questions” are the best way to establish the credibility of candidate’s claims to successful and effective performance. Competency-based questions should be based around the core competency of the specific job role; tailored to each candidate in relation to their CV.
  • Motivational fit questioning will allow you to draw comparisons between your company’s core values/practices and how a candidate likes to work. It is critical that the questions are used in order to establish how satisfied they will be in a specific role.
  • Theoretical questions ask the candidate to provide you with their thoughts or opinions around a general topic. This style of questioning is more based around what they think or what they would or usually do as opposed to them telling you what they have actually done.
  • Leading questions prompt candidates to tell you what they think you want to hear. You can use these questions to qualify candidate’s true intentions. You again need to identify statements within their CV or application form.

If you have a breath of experience on your panel and you are all marking the candidates objectively then this should lead you to choosing the correct candidate. 

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Shaun Simmons


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