Written by Mission Talent Team

Tips on how to be a great panel member.

Mission talent

It’s a career truth: one day you are the candidate, and the next you are sitting across the table leading the interview.  But being a panel member is not the time to sit back and relax − your engagement plays a key role in a successful hiring process.

Since 2010, Mission Talent has led more than 580 search processes for in 81 countries across the world. We have worked with various panels, most of them eager and empathetic – though some were not engaged, others were too participative and some even pushed candidates away with an old-school hierarchical approach.

We have found that the quality of your contribution does not depend on how experienced you are: whether you have interviewed hundreds of people or whether it’s your first time, your approach, attitude, and engagement are crucial.

Let’s start at the beginning: if you are working with a hired search consultant, let them guide you. Understand and respect the process to which you have agreed; you are partners with the same goal. Do not dismiss the importance of specific steps; ask questions if you do not understand.  

An initial briefing call forms the foundation of the whole search; give the recruiter 40 minutes of your valuable time to have a briefing about the role. During this conversation, you can provide insights into the role and share your key requirements. Even the best recruiters won’t find outstanding candidates for you based only on the job specification!

The role briefing is a conversation that has to happen with everyone who is part of the panel. Why? To ensure alignment amongst panel members. If you disregard this step, chances are that weeks down the line, you’ll be forced to discuss the role when presented with candidates who not everyone finds suitable. Not only will candidates pick up that the panel has no idea what they want, but you might also find yourself back at the drawing board and have wasted the candidates’ and the recruiter’s time − not to mention your own. It could even affect the reputation of your organisation.

It is your responsibility to ensure that the right questions are asked when you interview candidates. Ask your own questions; no one else can decide on your behalf what questions should be asked that would ultimately determine whether you want to hire someone or not.  Therefore, before an interview, familiarise yourself with the profiles of candidates, read previous interview reports, and think about what you want to know about this candidate for you to feel equipped and comfortable in making a decision.  

During an interview, have a conversation and a debate; an eye-level discussion is a respectful way to engage. There is no need for trick questions or an interrogative top-down approach. Be honest, transparent and professional. If you want to know about the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and failures, then you should also be prepared to discuss your organisation’s successes and challenges. Not allowing candidates the time or safe space to ask questions or even refusing to answer questions about non-confidential information is just bad manners.

It is crucial to remember that, during an interview, candidates are also interviewing their potential future employer. If you do not perform and represent your organisation well, there is a big chance that you might lose the interest of your most sought-after candidates.  Start off by introducing yourself as a panel− do not expect candidates to know who you are.  Ensure that you also introduce the role before you start asking questions, as this will lay the foundation for an informed and trusted discussion where both parties can test suitability.  

Use an appropriate setting for an interview. The setting conveys a lot about you and your organisation. Refrain from using a telephone for off-site interviews since voice calls reflect only half the story. Modern technology allows for video calls, even in areas with weak connectivity (yes, we have had interviews with someone sitting in the Zimbabwean bush with elephants strolling by in the background).

Double-check how you come across during the video call. A virtual space does not warrant you to neglect basic manners.  Act as you would if you were all sitting together for an on-site interview: do not lie on a bed(!), be dressed appropriately, ensure that there are no interruptions, and do not read or respond to emails or check Facebook.

Overall, it is important that you assist your search consultant in sticking to their process. You can support this by participating in meetings and calls scheduled to discuss candidates and by not changing set interview dates. Again, a frequent or inexplicable change of dates makes candidates lose interest, and rightly so.

Respond promptly to your search consultant’s questions. Great candidates are in demand and have other options; they need to be kept engaged and attracted to the role. Delaying a response might lead the candidate to lose interest. Remember, the search consultant can only represent your organisation favourably if you present him or her with sufficient information to actually do so.

Please remember, every step in a search and selection process is supposed to be a two-way street: both your relationship with your search consultant and your interaction with candidates. You have to show as much excitement, investment and interest in filling this role as you would expect from the candidate.

If not, you’ll just end up sitting at the table alone.