Simple things interview panels get wrong





As an experienced recruiter and frequent chair of recruitment panels I am surprised there are not a lot more formal recruitment complaints from both internal and external candidates. From my experience panels are often inadequately prepared, don't allow sufficient time, think HR procedures are overly bureaucratic and so don't bother to make or keep adequate notes on how their decisions were arrived at.

One of the main reasons recruitment complaints are upheld is a failure to follow the organisations own procedures. This can be a very expensive mistake and damaging to the organisations reputation. An investigator or Industrial Tribunal chair can't know what went through the minds of panel members when they made their decision or even what was said, with any certainty, but they can examine the notes taken, the scoring of answers and whether HR procedures were followed. In response panel members may claim that although they did not follow best practise they did nothing to discriminate or disadvantage a candidate, but claims that inadequate records, inconsistent questioning and lack of clarity in scoring were because interviews over ran and panel members had other commitments won't be acceptable.


In my experience panel members often turn up not knowing what questions they are going to ask with the result that what they come out with is often an overlong and clumsily worded question which they then,"refine " as the day goes on. Like wise the panel member doesn't read their question out but does it from memory such that wording and emphases can change throughout the day.

Every one recognises that each candidate must be asked the same questions but what about the follow up questions beloved of some interviewers? What about towards the end of a long day when the panel members energy is sagging and their enthusiasm for multiple follow up questions on the wain? And when does a follow up question become a prompt?

Never say to a waffler "and is there any thing else you would like to add". Some candidates think the longer they talk the greater the chance they will eventually say what the interviewer wants to here. Allowing a candidate significantly longer to answer a question could be open to challenge. Better to Inform each candidates at the outset how long the interview is scheduled for e.g. 45 minutes with two question from each panel member, then state it is up to candidate to manage the time available. Finish the interview promptly on 45 minutes.


The frequently inadequate time before the first interview is all to often taken up with who will ask what question and what scoring system will be used. No thought is given to what constitutes a good answer, that is until wildly differing scores are compared at the end of the day and a heated debate takes place about which was the best candidate! At this point panel members start looking at their watches, no one wants to reconvene because dairies are so difficult to coordinate. Panel members consult their sketchy notes. The following debate results in ,"adjusted " scores.

An experienced chair should ensure these pitfalls are avoided. However even an experienced chair can struggle with panel members who think they are doing a favour by giving up a day to help fill someone else's post and who respond by saying, " well this is the way I have always done it and it never been an issue before". And of course it never is until a formal complaint is made, an investigation takes place or a case is lost at IT.


Blair McPherson former Local Authority director , author and blogger



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