What are Panel Interviews?
As we have discussed before, recruitment is becoming more and more challenging for businesses across the UK. Finding and recruiting the right talent is complicated right now – with a well-documented candidate shortage contributing to a candidate-led market.
This means that, to assess jobseekers, organisations are searching for different ways of posing interview questions and seeking the answers they need to evaluate whether somebody is right for the role.
In this ever-evolving landscape of job interviews, panel interviews have emerged as a popular method for selecting candidates. Panel interviews can be understood as group interviews. They typically involve multiple interviewers questioning a candidate simultaneously.
As a method of interviewing and having a conversation with an applicant, they differ from traditional one-on-one interviews in terms of structure, dynamics, and objectives.
In this article, we will delve into what panel interviews are, explore their distinctions from other types of job interviews, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing this approach.
So, let’s start by defining what a panel interview is.
What is a Panel Interview?
A panel interviews is a job interview format where a candidate faces a group of interviewers who collectively assess their suitability for a position.
The most common type of panel interview takes the form of a group interview where multiple interviewers ask questions in something of a roundtable format. This group typically consists of three or more individuals, including human resources representatives, hiring managers, team leaders, and potential colleagues.
The individuals making up the panel are decision makers and people who will likely work alongside a recruit or support them in the role they are interviewing for.
Each panel member may have different areas of expertise and contribute unique perspectives during the interview process. They may each bring specific questions or areas of questioning into the interview, allowing for a deeper discussion about the nature of the role and the responsibilities and expertise required to be successful.
So, let’s look at how this may differ from a typical interview.
Unlike traditional one-on-one interviews, panel interviews involve multiple interviewers, creating a more comprehensive evaluation process. The structured nature of panel interviews allows for a broader range of questions, providing a more thorough assessment of a candidate’s skills, qualifications, and personality.
The group setting means that structurally, these types of interviews can be wildly different from one-to-one interviews because by their very nature, they encourage more free-form conversation, with panellists able to build on each other’s questions to drill down into an interviewee’s answers and gain a clearer understanding of their competency and experience.
Panel interviews introduce a dynamic setting where candidates must navigate a variety of personalities and adapt to different interview styles simultaneously. This format challenges candidates to handle various perspectives, fostering a sense of adaptability and resilience.
Panel-style interviews offer an opportunity for the members of the panel to each get a chance to get to know a candidate and get a feel for the way they respond to different questions, how flexible they are in interacting with multiple different people, and how well they are able to multitask when asked multiple different questions at once.
While one-on-one interviews primarily focus on individual interaction and assessment, panel interviews aim to evaluate a candidate’s compatibility with the entire team. Panel members can gauge how a candidate may fit into the company culture, interact with colleagues, and handle collaborative tasks.
These types of interviews seek not only to establish how well a candidate might be able to accomplish role-specific tasks, but also how they may fare in a working environment. It presents an opportunity to see how an applicant might deal with certain dominant personalities or how they might get along with different types of co-workers.
Meeting with multiple panel members is also a useful way of understanding how well an applicant might respond to high-pressure situations, as meeting with several team members at once can be quite daunting for an individual.
So, why would an organisation choose to use the panel interview format to evaluate potential candidates? Let’s look at the benefits of this kind of interview.
Advantages of Panel Interviews
One benefit that panel interviews offer compared to a more traditional one-to-one interview is that they can lead to a more comprehensive assessment of a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and suitability for a role. The collective expertise of the panel members can provide a more accurate evaluation of a candidate’s qualifications and potential.
This type of interview process is likely to yield a more in-depth understanding of an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses because the number of panel interviewers means that fewer stones will be left unturned when assessing an applicant’s suitability.
With multiple interviewers representing different departments and roles within the organization, panel interviews allow for a broader range of perspectives. This diversity enhances the decision-making process, ensuring a more balanced and objective evaluation of candidates.
A panel-style interview should avoid scenarios where a single person’s decision carries the ultimate sway in terms of whether an applicant should be hired or not.
Instead, the panel are all equally involved in evaluating an applicant and can then discuss their thoughts and opinions post-interview and come to a consensus decision around whether or not to hire someone.
Panel interviews can be more time-efficient for both the candidate and the organisation. Rather than scheduling multiple individual interviews, a panel interview allows the organisation to evaluate several candidates in a single session, streamlining the hiring process.
The interview panel are all present and all able to ask their necessary questions to assess an applicant. This reduces the likelihood that a follow-up interview will be necessary and can lead to panellists making a final decision more quickly than in scenarios where applicants have been interviewed one-on-one.
Disadvantages of Panel Interviews
As mentioned above, the presence of multiple interviewers can create an intimidating atmosphere for candidates. The added pressure may affect their performance and hinder their ability to showcase their true potential.
Rather than gain a complete perspective on someone’s suitability and skill, the presence of a panel might skew the findings of an interview, favouring those who are better suited to that type of interview environment, and potentially discounting job seekers who are technically able to do the job and who have the right skills but are not as able to navigate group interviews.
This could make the recruitment process less diverse and inclusive by alienating neurodiverse candidates or people who suffer from social anxiety.
Lack of Personal Connection:
Compared to one-on-one interviews, panel interviews may lack the personal connection that can be established in a more intimate setting. Candidates may find it challenging to establish rapport or engage with individual panel members due to the larger group dynamic.
Panel interviews can occasionally suffer from unconscious biases. Certain panel members may have preconceived notions or favouritism towards specific candidates, leading to an unfair assessment. This bias can be mitigated by establishing clear evaluation criteria and providing diversity training for panel members.
Should you use Panel Interviews?
Panel interviews bring a unique set of benefits, but also do bring their own disadvantages to the recruitment process. While they provide a comprehensive evaluation of candidates, harnessing diverse perspectives, they can also be intimidating and can sometimes even lead to additional biases entering the recruitment process.
But HR managers and hiring managers must carefully consider their specific needs and objectives when deciding whether to employ panel interviews. By understanding the dynamics and potential pitfalls of panel interviews, both employers and candidates can make more informed decisions, contributing to a fair and effective selection process.