Us vs You: Pros and Cons of the Panel Interview

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by Traci K. and BrightMove Recruiting Software

There are advantages and disadvantages to all interview formats.  Deciding how to conduct these candidate “meet & greets” relies on a wealth of factors: company industry, the position being filled, the position of the interviewer, interviewer personality, timeframe availability, etc.  There’s also the small matter of “who will actually conduct the interview?”

You should aim to gain the opinion of more than one person before making a hiring decision, perhaps from all those that will eventually be working with the candidate.  However, what if you don’t have the capability to perform numerous consecutive interviews or the opportunity to bring the candidate back for follow-up meetings?  The longer the hiring process, the higher the probability that the applicant may find another position (don’t assume you are the only one they are interviewing with).  The candidate could be traveling a long distance or this position could be one that your organization needed filled yesterday…aah!  How are you supposed to complete a full recruitment cycle in such a short amount of time?

And then, a light bulb appears above your head (replacing the Arby’s logo) and you exclaim, “A Panel Interview!”  What an excellent idea.  The standard panel interview, consisting of four or more people, can be a useful interviewing option when utilized correctly.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Saves time

Having numerous employees in your organization assessing the candidate at once eliminates numerous interviews and follow-ups, cutting down the length of the recruiting process.

 

Con: Less time to analyze candidate

By ridding the recruitment cycle of multiple interviews, candidates get one shot to pass or fail.  Great potentials could be flushed out of the process based on one sub-par meeting.
Pro: Minimizes variables influencing judgments

All interviewers see and hear one set of questions and answers.  Views on the candidate will differ amongst those attending the interview; however, those analyses will be based on the same information, received at the same time.

 

Con: Eliminates one-on-one comfort with candidate

A seasoned interviewer may have the ability to bring a more reserved candidate out of their shell, whereas a panel interview can be very intimidating to a more timid applicant.

Pro: Better assessment of candidate

While peers are asking questions and taking notes, you can listen intently to the answers given and analyze the candidate’s body language.

 

Con: Opinion of expressive interviewers dominates

Those interviewers that are outspoken and opinionated can skew the views of others that aren’t as willing to speak up. Some employees don’t want to go against the grain, so they will agree with the thoughts of more dominant coworkers instead of offering honest opinions.

Pro: Intimidating to candidates

The requirement of impressing more than one person for a potential position will show how a candidate handles stress and reacts to added pressure.

 

Con: Less elaboration

Coming back to the meek interviewees, candidates that are intimidated or less comfortable interviewing with multiple managers at once, may keep their responses short, not feeling relaxed enough to expand upon their answers.

Taking into consideration all points, in the end, a panel interview may be the best choice for you.  Use the following tips to ensure the best possible outcome with this interview format:

  • Choose interviewers from varying departments, backgrounds, personalities, etc., to gain more diverse perspectives.
  • Get organized.  Make sure you have a formal set of agreed upon questions so that no one is talking over each other and the candidate understands where to direct their answers.
  • Introduce everyone at the onset.  That may seem like a no-brainer, but giving the candidate a little background on those attending the interview will set them more at ease and allow them to tailor their answers to the specific person asking the question.
  • Be sure not to get panel interview feedback from all interviews at once.  Ask each manager to send you a brief e-mail of their takeaways from the candidate meeting or schedule time with each interviewer one-on-one to gain feedback to eliminate the opinions of a few to influence the majority.

 

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

 

2 Comments

  1. Todd on February 28, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Good material but i have constructive feedback. Your last con gets close but misses the mark. You are putting the root cause of the problem with the interviewee when using descriptive terms like ‘meek’, ‘intimidated’, or ‘less comfortable interviewing in front of multiple managers.’. The fact is that almost everyone is less comfortable interviewing in front of multiple managers. The real con in this respect is that interviewees are ‘held back’ in their responses. The panel format takes the essence of competitiveness out of the interview. While an interviewee might be tempted to exhibit gung-ho tendencies in an interview with his future boss to show he has energy and drive, he/she would be forced to rein in such efforts in a panel discussion to prohibit from intimidating peers. The fact is that employees must behave differently for different audiences, and panel formats can limit the interviewer’s read on how prospective employees would work with them on an individual level. Personally, i’ve always considered them ineffective. They are only good for saving time/money. It is far better for a company to set up multiple interviews with different managers.

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