As an executive recruiting firm we have a great opportunity to see the inner workings of organizations with diverse business models, corporate cultures and leadership styles. With our focus on talent acquisition and leadership development, our clients frequently look to us for counsel on candidate assessment and the interview process.
Our client’s interview approach is typically influenced by the organization’s values, established human resource process and the CEO’s preference. What works for one organization may not be effective in another. Candidate interviews and evaluations are becoming much more rigorous and in some cases, exhausting. With the goal of identifying the best candidate possible, organizations must carefully balance the assessment process with the task of selling the opportunity to a candidate pool that continues to be more selective. As a search firm, one our greatest challenges is not the evaluation and identification of a top flight candidate, it’s getting through the PROCESS. Layering conflicting schedules on top of an already cumbersome approach often results in what can be considered a necessary evil…. the panel interview.
Panel interviews can be highly efficient in allowing three or more people to meet a candidate all at once. You have the ability to compare notes and collectively decide on a thumbs up or thumbs down on very short order. In deciding to use the panel approach great weight is often placed on team dynamics, collaboration, and the ability to factor in different opinions and perspectives through a shared interview experience. What do we leave on the table with these gained efficiencies? The most common response when we ask a candidate for their feedback after a panel interview? “I have no idea how I did”.
While schedules may be more manageable with a consolidated process, organizations may lose valuable insight often gained in a more intimate interview setting. Each member of your team has a different perspective and will evaluate a candidate with some degree of bias. Supervisors, peers and direct reports all have an individual lens through which they see a potential candidate. So while we may be able to collectively grade a candidate’s ability to answer question #5 correctly, you might miss the perspective gained through a one on one conversation and a more free form dialogue.
Unfortunately, the panel approach is rarely an opportunity for candidates to make a personal connection. Interviewing in and of itself can be stressful for most and we have seen top flight candidates struggle with this format. Perhaps that’s the goal for some – let’s see how they perform under pressure. Remember, especially in today’s marketplace, candidates are sizing you up as well. If you are planning on utilizing a panel, try to encourage a fluid conversation, personalize your approach, reinforce the need for a high level of engagement from your team and avoid the mob mentality during the subsequent debrief. Members of the team should be encouraged to offer conflicting opinions as you weigh the pros and cons of each candidate. The goal should always be selecting the best candidate for the role, not necessarily selecting the best interview performance.