Panel Interview

panel interview
••• Comstock Images/Getty Images

A panel interview is a job interview where an applicant answers questions from a group of people who make the hiring decision. Hiring managers use panel interviews to gain perspective from other people in the organization and occasionally those outside the organization.

Why Employers Like Panel Interviews

Panels reduce the risk of making a bad hire. The strengths of each panel member tend to compensate for each member’s weaknesses. Each member brings a different set of experiences, thoughts, beliefs and biases to the interview process. Panel members should work well with one another while being unafraid to respectfully challenge each other’s judgments and assertions about the . The panel’s goal is to make the best hiring decision possible given the information they have about the position and the finalists.

Members of the interview panel are often people who will routinely interact with the person chosen to fill the job vacancy. For example, an interview panel for an assistant police chief position may consist of the police chief, fire chief and an assistant city manager. These people have a vested interest in making a good hire. In the long run, a bad hire will mean unnecessary disruption for the people who work closely with the new hire.

The hiring manager generally leads the panel and asks the predetermined interview questions. All panelists are free to ask follow-up or probing questions. The predetermined questions are the same for each finalist. The follow-up and probing questions are different for each finalist because they are based on how the finalist answers the predetermined questions.

Scheduling of Panel Interviews

Hiring managers tend to schedule panel interviews all in one day. It is easier to block out an entire work day than it is to find five hour-and-a-half blocks of time within a few days that fit each panelist’s schedule.

Scheduling for one day also makes the interview process shorter. The panelist can come to a decision the same day that finalists are interviewed. Anything that can shorten the hiring process without sacrificing thoroughness is good for both the finalists and the organization. Vacancies cause stress and strain among existing staff because those employees must cover the vacant position’s workload.

How Panels Are Often Selected

Organizations often factor in two types of diversity when deciding who will serve on interview panels. By ensuring a panel includes men and women and a mix of races, organizations mitigate the risk of applicants suing on the basis of discrimination. Just defending against a lawsuit costs an organization considerable time and money, so any cost-free move the organization can make to prevent such a lawsuit is a no-brainer.