Panning the panel interview


Geoff De Lacy (FAHRILife), director of management consultancy Polaris Consulting, spoke with HRM about the inefficiency of panels and the pitfalls to be wary of.

Why do you believe panel interviews should be put out to pasture?

If you’ve got committees to select people – and some of the universities are saying five is the minimum – the question is: are they trained? Are they any good? Are they committed to the task? Do they understand the cost of getting it wrong? And that really aligns itself to the idea of a beauty parade.

I chair a couple of boards and panel interviews, and we’re sort of dying in terms of credibility. We know they have little reliability and validity. But because we brought in very strong equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation in the late ’80s, we’d better have a woman on the panel. Often we just conscript people because we need a certain type or someone falls into a certain category. So the whole thing becomes weird in that regard.

Are panels asking the right questions?

Often the questions are written by the recruiter or the HR person for the group of individuals, so the questions are prepared by a second party. If you are on a panel to select an author, for example, you will have qualities that you want in a good author and you should be able to focus your own questions around the criteria of being a good author. But it doesn’t go like that. They farm the questions around.

What pitfalls have you found from the interviewee point of view?

It really seems to me that with panels, and I’ve been in a million of them, ask people to go on stage. There are some candidates who handle these processes very well and some who don’t. The way you look in the interview, the way you talk, the way you present and the way you handle a particularly difficult question has a huge impact on the final decision – but it’s really rubbish. The judgments are all circumstantial; but we can’t seem to get away from that.

If you take some of the big data we now know, for example that the average CEO in the top 500 companies in the US is a 6’2” male. They’ve done that profiling. Then they take that 6’2” male profile a bit further, and that individual has gone to a certain university and all the rest of it. What we’re ending up with comes from a cookie cutter.

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Roger Fitzpatrick
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Roger Fitzpatrick

Excellent piece – thanks Geoff. Couldn’t agree more however challenge is to come up with informed alternatives

Sean Curtain
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Sean Curtain

Geoff Thank you, couldn’t agree more. I know of a University that recently went through quite extensive panel recruitment models for a large number of roles, with some roles, not necessarily senior ones, having 5 to 7 people on them. They were formulaic in that they asked the same questions, by order, and didn’t explore the person or resume/background, just stuck to a formula. Having that rehearsed set of questions, with candidates trying to remember to make eye contact with every person, and again, having panels made up of people who aren’t trained or there as a token, was very… Read more »

Damian Turner
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Damian Turner

I too would have to agree that there is little real benefit in a panel. They are designed to fulfil compliance obligations which I’m not sure they even achieve. I’m afraid the idea of a panel isn’t about finding the best candidate, its about protecting the organisation. This in itself is the wrong reason when you think about what you have set out to do- find the very best candidate for the role. As was mentioned by Geoff and supported by research, validity and reliability both not good when it comes to panels. Lets look at other methods of selection… Read more »

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Panning the panel interview


Geoff De Lacy (FAHRILife), director of management consultancy Polaris Consulting, spoke with HRM about the inefficiency of panels and the pitfalls to be wary of.

Why do you believe panel interviews should be put out to pasture?

If you’ve got committees to select people – and some of the universities are saying five is the minimum – the question is: are they trained? Are they any good? Are they committed to the task? Do they understand the cost of getting it wrong? And that really aligns itself to the idea of a beauty parade.

I chair a couple of boards and panel interviews, and we’re sort of dying in terms of credibility. We know they have little reliability and validity. But because we brought in very strong equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation in the late ’80s, we’d better have a woman on the panel. Often we just conscript people because we need a certain type or someone falls into a certain category. So the whole thing becomes weird in that regard.

Are panels asking the right questions?

Often the questions are written by the recruiter or the HR person for the group of individuals, so the questions are prepared by a second party. If you are on a panel to select an author, for example, you will have qualities that you want in a good author and you should be able to focus your own questions around the criteria of being a good author. But it doesn’t go like that. They farm the questions around.

What pitfalls have you found from the interviewee point of view?

It really seems to me that with panels, and I’ve been in a million of them, ask people to go on stage. There are some candidates who handle these processes very well and some who don’t. The way you look in the interview, the way you talk, the way you present and the way you handle a particularly difficult question has a huge impact on the final decision – but it’s really rubbish. The judgments are all circumstantial; but we can’t seem to get away from that.

If you take some of the big data we now know, for example that the average CEO in the top 500 companies in the US is a 6’2” male. They’ve done that profiling. Then they take that 6’2” male profile a bit further, and that individual has gone to a certain university and all the rest of it. What we’re ending up with comes from a cookie cutter.

6
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avatar
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Roger Fitzpatrick
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Roger Fitzpatrick

Excellent piece – thanks Geoff. Couldn’t agree more however challenge is to come up with informed alternatives

Sean Curtain
Guest
Sean Curtain

Geoff Thank you, couldn’t agree more. I know of a University that recently went through quite extensive panel recruitment models for a large number of roles, with some roles, not necessarily senior ones, having 5 to 7 people on them. They were formulaic in that they asked the same questions, by order, and didn’t explore the person or resume/background, just stuck to a formula. Having that rehearsed set of questions, with candidates trying to remember to make eye contact with every person, and again, having panels made up of people who aren’t trained or there as a token, was very… Read more »

Damian Turner
Guest
Damian Turner

I too would have to agree that there is little real benefit in a panel. They are designed to fulfil compliance obligations which I’m not sure they even achieve. I’m afraid the idea of a panel isn’t about finding the best candidate, its about protecting the organisation. This in itself is the wrong reason when you think about what you have set out to do- find the very best candidate for the role. As was mentioned by Geoff and supported by research, validity and reliability both not good when it comes to panels. Lets look at other methods of selection… Read more »

More on HRM