How To Make Your Interview Panel Your Strongest Recruiting Tool

It’s getting harder and harder to find suitable candidates—and harder to interview them with real, measurable success. With travel complications, remote work obligations, and everyone scrambling for leadership talent, it can be easy to compromise on the hiring process or the candidate. After all, who has time for multiple interviews these days?

No one, that’s who. Least of all, a strong candidate in a seller’s market.

Despite the fierce competition for talent, a robust and consistent vetting process is critical. We’ve all heard or experienced the horror stories—nearly anyone can look good online or on paper. Even multiple one-on-one interviews can’t always capture (or see-through) the details of a candidate’s response—and there’s so much more that goes into a great fit than whether or not their references check out.

Enter: The Interview Panel

Before you cringe, know that I get it. I speak six languages fluently and have facilitated enough panel interviews to know that BS is a pretty universal dialect. And it’s not always the candidate that lays it on thick.

Done wrong, interview panels can be a festering mess of questions, egos, time, energy, and resources.

Done right, they can be one of the best and fastest ways to acquire—and retain—exceptional talent in your company’s critical roles. Let’s break down why.

Well-organized, BS-proof interview panels – 

  • Minimize personality and first impression bias by working from a set list of questions designed to keep the interview on track and aligned with the role’s requirements.

    TIP: To ensure consistency from candidate to candidate, it’s critical to have a clear talent acquisition process. Curate accomplishment and behavior-based questions and share them with the entire panel, so everyone understands their roles and the interview flow. 

  • Improve interviewing accuracy through collective and organized discovery. The different perspectives of an interview panel create a multidimensional assessment of a candidate’s competency for the position and chemical fit within the culture.

    TIP: Require all panelists to review candidate materials before the interview. While note-taking shouldn’t be discouraged, it’s more important to listen and remain attentive at the moment—and capture notes immediately after the interview is wrapped. Allot time for this and additional discussion while the impression is fresh. 

  • Make the most of everyone’s time and talents. I recommend that everyone on the interview panel has a specific role, whether it’s facilitating the process or screening for particular criteria. Remember, you’re making the most of the candidate’s time here, too—make sure you’re representing areas where the candidate will have the most to gain or contribute.

    TIP: To ensure all of your screening criteria are covered, assign each panelist with something in mind—knowledge, skills, abilities, chemistry, etc.—based on their background and relationship to the role.

  • Eliminate ‘fluff’. Panels are built for evidence interpretation—not determining likeability or establishing general competencies. Your panel should create an atmosphere of transparency that invites honest and candid dialog—and unfiltered note-taking.

    TIP: Select panelists from different departments of your company whose opinion you trust, including one or two who may have limited contact with the new hire (but who know the company well). Having an uninvested perspective will provide you with a broader perspective on the candidate’s performance, and those different points of view are critical to balancing out any assessment. 

  • Engage all participants. If your goal is to hire A-Players (and it better be), make sure your interview panel is packed with them. High-performers have a 6th sense for like-minded talent—and this will go both ways during the interview. Remember, your candidate is getting a feel for your organization, too. If you showcase your caliber upfront, you’re inviting them into a new chapter of growth and opportunity—and, for the right candidate, this will tip the scales in your favor.

    TIP: Asking your A-Players to join an interview panel shouldn’t feel like jury duty selection. It should be seen as an honor and an invitation to shape and share in your company’s evolution.  Make panel participation a critical part of your high-performance culture—because it is!

  • Clarify your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Where most interview panels fail is in the assumption that the candidate needs the company more than the other way around. That is simply not the case today. Companies competing for top talent need to be crystal clear on what makes them stand out from their competitors and how this directly benefits their ideal hires.

    TIP: Great candidates want to work for great leaders, unique opportunities, and meaningful growth. How does your company meet this need? How are you sharing these details with your candidates?

A carefully selected interview panel and a dedication to the process ensures both your company and the candidate get what they came for—clear answers and a glimpse of what your company could become when you combine efforts. 

No matter what the ratio (I recommend no more than five panelists to a candidate), interview panels can be a little intimidating—and, in some ways, they are meant to be. Many companies—and candidates—view panels as an opportunity to see how the other behaves when the stakes are high. 

And, if you’ve got the right candidate—and the right interview panel—in the room, why is this a bad thing?

About the author

Karli Waldon
Managing Partner, President & COO | More From the Author

Karli Waldon is a former US Air Force Cryptologic Language Analyst, proficient in 6 languages and has served with distinction across multiple intelligence agencies on several classified but critical missions and in several hostile areas overseas.  Following her career in the US Air Force, Karli was the Global Sales Talent Acquisition Executive Leader at Forcepoint, a human-centric cyber security firm.

She is known in the Talent Acquisition space for designing, building, and executing complex talent strategies to help business leaders plan, attract and retain top talent- helping them achieve exceptional business results. Her experience spans across multiple industries and within corporate and agency settings.

Karli is a trained expert in human behavior analysis through complex questioning and observation as well as talent acquisition selection and assessment.  She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Communications from the University of Maryland and is considered an SME in all things relating to veterans’ transition efforts.

Karli was the clear choice to take the reigns as President and COO of Talent War Group, leading and evolving the executive search function while driving best in class business processes from the start-up through maturity phases of our company’s evolution.

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