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Why Having 4 Interviewers on a Panel Is Better Than 10

Crowded interview panels cripple organizations with inefficiency. Limit panel members to optimize recruiting operations and overall performance throughout the company.

Leaders often think that more interviewers means a stronger interview process that will produce high-quality candidates to lead their companies. However, a large interview panel is often detrimental to an organization on many levels.

Having too many interviewers on a panel leads to diffusion of responsibility, inefficiency, and a negative impact on the organization. A smaller panel will increase personal responsibility and motivation to contribute effectively to the interview process.

When recruiting candidates are interviewed by ten team members, it doesn’t mean they are passing through ten different “gates” before they would receive an offer. Also, more people interviewing candidates doesn’t mean they will be high-quality candidates making it through the funnel. In fact, having ten interviewers often yields low-quality candidate pass-through while compounding inefficiency throughout the organization. This is due to, among other things, a diffusion of responsibility by the interview panel.

Why Fewer Interviewers Are More Effective

Panel of 10 is ineffective

If I’m one of 10 interviewers on a panel, I know I’m a small fractional vote for the final decision. For that reason, I enter the interview process with low value and motivation. I’m not likely to exert much effort preparing for the interview or taking detailed notes since nine others are involved. I likely don’t represent a skill or perspective that’s unique to the rest of the panel, so I won’t need to chime in on my area of expertise. If I feel a candidate should not join the team, it’s unlikely I’ll speak up because I don’t want to have to convince nine others to change their minds. Finally, since the decision does not rest on my shoulders if the new employee fails, I’m more likely to move a marginal candidate forward in the process and risk a bad hire. After all, the decision is among 10 of us so my role is significantly diffuse.

Panel of 4 is optimal

If I’m one of four interviewers on a panel, I play a large role on whether or not a candidate will be hired. With a 25% stake in the decision-making process, I understand the need to conduct a thorough evaluation of the candidate. This compels me to adequately prepare, ask relevant and insightful questions, and take comprehensive notes during the interview in order to deeply assess the candidate. When there are only three other interviewers – there’s no avoiding my personal responsibility. In fact, it’s likely that my skill set and perspective is unique to the other three interviewers, which motivates me to exert more effort because the company’s decision for me to be part of the panel indicates that I’m valued. When I am recognized and appreciated, I am more likely to voice my opinion and provide valuable insights into a candidate’s suitability. Moreover, as a quarter of the panel, I must be ready to respond to any queries from the hiring manager or other panel members.

Negative impacts of a crowded interview panel

An ineffective interview process will negatively impact the entire organization. First, we have the cost of labor for our executive team. They will unfortunately spend valuable time and energy on unqualified candidates who make it through the funnel, creating frustration that spreads throughout the company.  

Team leads and managers are also impacted. Since their team members are often pulled to participate on an interview panel, they must frequently operate with under-staffed teams. In addition, team leads must spend additional time evaluating the interview performance of those panel participants. This has a compounding, negative impact on team leadership and performance for a negligible contribution to the recruiting process.

Strain is also placed on the recruiting team. They must coordinate with ten or more people for every interview. If someone isn’t available, they will have to find a replacement interviewer. They have to coordinate interview rooms and work around more schedules. Not to mention, they must review, process, and organize interview notes for the ten interviewers.

How to build a lean interview panel

A lean interview panel improves hiring efficiency and increases the chances of hiring high-quality candidates. It saves time and resources, and allows for a more focused and objective assessment of candidates. A company can benefit greatly by streamlining its interview process and keeping only the necessary interviewers. Here are three tips on how to build the foundation of a strong interview panel.

Use no more than three to four interviewers on a panel. 

This has been rigorously tested and documented by some of the world’s leading companies. Google has been using the Rule of Four for the better part of the last decade.

Train interviewers on the importance of their role in the interview process.

Provide interviewers with training on how to prepare for interviews, ask effective questions, and evaluate candidates objectively. Additionally, consider providing incentives for interviewers who demonstrate exceptional performance during the interview process, such as bonuses or recognition.

Implement a customized interview panel size for each position based on the importance and complexity of the role.

Instead of having a fixed number of interviewers for all positions, consider evaluating each role’s requirements and determine how many interviewers are needed to make an informed decision. This way, the responsibility is more evenly distributed, and the interview process is more efficient.

Optimizing recruiting operations

The hiring process is a critical component of any organization’s success. Using a smaller interview team can lead to more consistent evaluations, reduced bias, and improved efficiency. By identifying the right people, developing a consistent interview process, and training interviewers, you can implement a more effective hiring process.

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Jason Halbert