By Shaun Simmons, Managing Director at Cordant Technical Recruitment

When going for an interview, the unknown is always what tends to scare people the most. During my time at Cordant Technical Recruitment I have interviewed a lot of people, and my personal experience has taught me that the best way to conquer interviews is to be prepared, both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

I have seen an increase in panel interviews over the past few years. They are a great way of screening job seekers and finding talent. A panel interview is basically what it says on the tin, one interviewee facing a panel of interviewers. It benefits the company by offering a chance to open up a dialogue with a potential candidate in a different environment than a typical one-to-one interview.

It is common for these type of interview preparation articles to focus at the interview from the point of view of the candidate, however today I am going to focus on the angle of the interviewer with the hope that it gives an insight into the interview process and provides a unique view into what companies look for.

Why choose a panel interview?

There are many positive reasons for choosing to interview candidates in a panel situation. Bringing together all the decision-makers in one room helps to gain a rounded view of a candidate consequently speeding up the process meaning you are less likely to lose out on the next talent.

However, from the candidates point of view, it is a very daunting process and this can affect their performance. Therefore choosing the right, relevant panel is very important; if members of the panel are there “just to make up the numbers” it can be highly unnerving, so make sure panel members are there for a reason.

The best way to prepare for a panel interview

Panel interviews only work if you take the time to research each candidate by reviewing their application. It is also worth checking psychometric profiles or the candidates social media presence. It is a good way to get a proper insight to the person you are hiring.

Having an application form that every candidate has had to fill in is another good way of forming an initial impression. Assessing interviewees based on the same format rather than different styles of CV is an effective way of directly comparing candidates.

Interviews are a two way process. Even if there is more than one person doing the interviewing, it is a great chance for candidates to get a feel for your company, learn about how the business works and constantly assessing whether this job is for them. On average prospective employees will see four companies before accepting a job offer, it is as much their decision as it is yours.

By learning about the candidate before the interview you are better prepared to ask questions that will help the interviewee excel and aid you in making the best decision.

What are the best questions to ask?                                 

Interviews should be structured in such a way that you can identify the key elements of a candidate’s experience and suitability. I have found a scoring sheet useful; style of answers, body language, technical or sales knowledge and so on. It is also a good idea to test the interest of the applicant by asking them about their knowledge of the job. If they are truly interested in the role, they should have taken the time to research your company.

There are four different styles of questions which I have always found guarantee you to pick out the best candidate.

1)    Competency Question – these should be based around the candidates CV and their competency to fulfil the specific role.

2)    Motivational Fit Questions – allows you to compare your company’s values with how a particular candidate likes to work.

3)    Theoretical Questions – These are a great way of finding out candidates opinions on particular topics.

4)    Leading Questions – Questions that encourage a candidate to tell you what you want to hear unveiling their true intentions.

Panel interviews, when conducted correctly, are an excellent way of deciphering the best candidate for the role you’re offering. The key is preparation, ensuring you know your role on the panel, what questions you are going to ask and doing your background research on the candidate.

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