Barry McLoughlin's Tips for Remote Interview Panels

26th Jan 2021
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How can you manage your organisation’s interview process effectively online?

Interview panels have a huge responsibility. They have to select the best candidate for a role while running an interview process that is lawful and fair.

This can put significant pressure on panel members – selecting the wrong candidate costs money, impacts on the morale of other staff and potentially damages the trust of clients. On top of that, the entire process – from shortlisting to interviewing, evaluating and notifying – is time consuming.

Online interviews present further unique challenges for a panel.

Senior Training Consultant, Barry McLoughlin, shares 5 tips below for how your organisation can manage a fair, efficient and well-prepared remote interview process.

  1. Start with the job specification – It should be clear and concise. The role objectives should be stated clearly along with the type and duration of the experience expected. A list of essential competencies will make it easier for the candidate to describe their relevant experience.

  2. Shortlisting – The shortlisting panel will have to spend time working out their criteria. They should check the job spec to come up with an agreed standard to progress applicants to the next stage, stick to it, and record each decision. The shortlisting group should ensure that they are not discriminating on any of the nine grounds protected in Irish law – and keep these in mind throughout the process.

  3. Unconscious bias – Are the panel generally selecting candidates with a similar background to them? Or not selecting candidates because they went to a different school, or come from a different industry? Every panel must be able to base all of their decisions on what they read in an application form and heard at interview. Anything like a “gut feeling” is potentially an unconscious bias. Each decision needs to be made on objective, measurable merits .

  4. Plan the interview structure and questions – A general opening question allows a candidate to summarise their career. Specific questions on competencies should be clearly worded. Technical questions must be clear and relevant to the role. The board should always be seeking evidence that proves a skill, not just recites it. An appropriate length of time should be allowed for each question and answer. Decide on a scoring system to allow the panel to clearly differentiate candidates based on performance. Note all decisions on paper and make sure they are backed up by evidence.

  5. The candidate and remote interviews – The most effective interview panels put candidates at ease and allow them the opportunity to give their best answers. If a candidate is speaking for longer than is allocated, or if a colleague on the panel is not being clear in their question, a useful technique to interrupt someone politely online is to use their first name. Repeat a question if necessary and allow the candidate to get a drink of water if they’re nervous. Watch how you’re coming across on screen. Breaking eye contact, making negative expressions while candidates are answering questions are all behaviours that should be avoided. Negative behaviours become more obvious on-screen so correct them if they are obvious.