Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interviews: Panel v/s One-to-one

Well, you’re ready for that all important interviews to begin and walk into the room…and you’ve walked into one of the two scenarios (or versions of it).

  • You come face-to-face with an interview panel of 2-4 (or at time even more) people waiting to start the interview.
  • or,
  • You have one person waiting to start the interview.

Either way, it isn’t a choice that you were given. Instead, you’ll have to deal with it as it unfolds. Well, here’s the take on both sides of the story. Which would you prefer?

Typically, panel interviews are practiced (or should be practiced) by companies with trained interviewers. It requires a set of people asking questions that aren’t redundant and focuses on evaluating different skills/topics. Since it involves more than one person asking varied questions, it’s perceived to be a lot tougher to focus. Yes, it’s difficult to gauge the pulse of everyone on the panel, but you can be assured that the final hiring call rests (or should rest) with the manager. We can argue that the panel interview saves time, cost, more focused and gives you an accurate decision/assessment. It also acts as a platform to train new interviewers. At the same time, it can be intimidating to the candidate, more stressful or might even confuse the candidate with different questions at the same time. More importantly, one can’t rule out the possibility of a dominant interviewer’s opinion affecting the hiring decision.

The only way to ace a panel interview, like in other formats, is to go prepared and stay relaxed.

On other hand, we have one-to-one interviews. It gives candidates enough time to answer each question systematically and in detail. It also gives the interviewer an opportunity to speak more openly and ask open-ended questions. More importantly, each discussion can be customized based on the candidate. It gives an opportunity for the hiring manager to evaluate the interviewer’s independent assessment of candidates. This takes away the bias of the ‘influencer’ in a panel interview. On the cons, it’s time consuming, costs are higher and the process is tedious.

So, if you had the option to choose a type of interview, what would it be?