I had a recent experience with a bad hire that fits everything in the cast as to why panel interviews are a bad idea.

In my organisation (Australia, large public educational institution) an applicant writes out their answers to the selection criteria (mini-essays) and the applications are reviewed and potential interviewees are selected. All interviews must be panel interviews - at a minimum the panel chair (who may or may not be the hiring manager), someone from the hiring unit and an external to the hiring unit. More usually the panel also includes an HR representative and a union representative (depending on role). Questions are worked out in advance and each person on the panel asks set questions.There is little opportunity to probe and ask clarifying questions. Interviews rarely last longer than 30 minutes, if that. A report is written as to whether the candidate is appointable, HR checks the referee's, the hiring manager reads the referee report (but can't speak to them) and says whether or not to make the offer. If you are lucky 6-8 weeks later you may or may not have a new hire.

The role was part time for six months reporting to me, fairly low level role. Four person panel, my manager was the panel chair. We had one applicant (internal) who on paper looked like they had all the skills and experience needed. They interviewed well according to the different inherent biases of the four person panel - my manager was particularly impressed with them regarding a skill they claimed to have which actually wasn't one they would need in the job and there was that "turn in the debate" moment where all the panel agreed on "one sentence good answer".

We had to make a hiring decision and as the person "ticked all the boxes" we made them an offer. The alternative was to go through the full recruitment process again which would have taken another four months (which was the length of time it took to move things through HR to advertise the role in the first place).

The first day they were in the role it was clear it was a bad hire and one that could have been avoided if I had been able to have a one on one with them and ask the questions I could only ask when they were actually sitting at their desk. They didn't want the job, skills they said they had they either couldn't do or wouldn't do, they were disrespectful to me and uncommunicative, they refused to learn how to use the standard issue desktop computer (a Mac) used by the previous incumbent. It took us 9 weeks to manage them out, which we could do because it was a fixed term role. If it was a permanent role we would have been stuck with them until they resigned.

Yet all of us on the panel thought that the person was eminently appointable when in reality they were a total waste of time.

pucciot's picture
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Ohhh I could tell some tales about this ----

Here in my org, and it seems in the profession, the panel interview is SOP.

There is usually a _Candidate Selection Committee_ and this committee is expected to run all interviews as a panel. The same way for all candidates.
And usually a candidate is asked to do a presentation on some relevant topic for the entire org staff.
And everyone on he staff is then allowed to ask any questions they want at the presentation.

Although, in the panel interviews each person on the committee is usually assigned questions that they are allowed to ask... and exactly when they are allowed to ask it. -- No probing allowed.

The idea is that each candidate that comes in for an interview is to get the exact same experience.
The same questions, the same order of events. The same people they talked to.
That way the committee can compared the candidates against their performance at the exact same interview experience.

I can assure you that if a manager did not agree to do even a small panel interviews he would be frowned upon.


pucciot's picture
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Here is an example of an interview where I was the candidate.


I was told to wait in an office lobby for about 10 min after my interview time.   There was a candidate just before me.

--- It seems this was the only day that everybody on the _Candidate Selection Committee_ could get together.

sooooo.....   eventually I was lead into a large conference room with a large square table.

Around it sat the Selection Committee.  At least nine (9) people,  Various administrators from around the college, the library director, and several other library staff members (potential peers).

I was lead to a chair at the head of the table, where --- taped down to the table was a sheet of paper.

What was on this paper ?

* The list of the questions that each of the people would ask me - and the order they would be asked in.

They then proceeded to one-by-one ask me the questions going clockwise around the table.

When they were finished, they told me that my presentation was next, and then I could leave.

It is then that I asked, "When will I be able to meet with the Library Director alone?  

and At what time will I be able to ask my questions ?"

The director paused, and said that this was the only interview time and the only interview venue and they could spare a minute right now if I kept my questions short.

That is when I proceeded to make everybody squirm. (Yes, I was already a little upset)

I asked the administrators and the faculty members about library support.  And how they felt their relationships were ?

I asked the Director about administrative support and his relationships with upper administration.  I asked him about management style and his estimation about employee engagement and morale.

I asked the staff members about the Director's relations with the staff, and what their impressions were of his management styles.  I asked them about fellow employee engagement and morale.

I think I could tell that these people around the table did not have good relationships - and that answering these questions in front of the very people they were talking about would be a very uncomforable experience for them.

And I knew that my very asking to speak with the Director alone and wanting time to ask my questions, was a blantant critisim of how they were running their interview process.

Oh – yeah – I was younger and dumber then – I didn’t care about burning this bridge.


***  I felt completely disrespected as a professional. 

***  And mistreated as a human being.


I don’t mind a small panel of two (2) or three (3) people… but come on folks ! Just say NO to the large "efficient" panel interview.


Don’t give these poor folks the 3rd degree !


BTW -- I called them back 2 hours later and withdrew my application.