Advice for virtual panel interviewers
Guidance for managers and HR on virtual panel interviews
In final interviews there may be two, three or more interviewers, all in separate locations. Participants may not have the level of technological support possible for a conventional business conference call, and the high stakes for the interviewers and the candidate mean that it is worth adopting some clear ground rules.
We strongly recommend that virtual interviews should not be recorded, as this adds an unnecessary level of pressure for the interviewees. If, in exceptional circumstances, there is a legitimate requirement to record a particular interview, all the participants (candidate and panel members) must give consent to record in advance of the meeting, and the recording must be kept securely and confidentially in accordance with GDPR.
The recruitment administrator should check with each participant that the technology is installed and working on their computer and that they are familiar with and have the technology available for any features you plan to use in the interview (e.g. chat, hand, screen-sharing). This is particularly important for external panel members and for candidates outside the organisation.
- All panel members should be strongly encouraged to undertake relevant online training in advance, e.g. Recruitment and Selection, Implicit Bias courses can be found here
- The panel should agree the interview questions in advance, as well as who will ask which question, and any rules for follow up questions should also be agreed either by correspondence or by convening a video call before the first interview
- The method of note taking and/or scoring to be used should be clarified in advance, and panellists advised on how to ensure consistency and fairness in the way these are recorded
- Ensure papers are sent in good time, and that panel members have the facility to print at home / at a remote location as required
- Remind panel members about appropriate dress code and ‘in shot’ backgrounds. Ensure panel members have access to a quiet, private space and advise that backgrounds are blurred to create home/work separation if needed
- Provide a phone contact name and number in case the technology failson the day and during the interview, this could be the Chair or a recruitment administrator
- A panel pre-briefing with the administrator or the Chair provides an opportunity to test the technology, and to set the ground rules for the particular circumstances of a virtual interview
- More deliberate behaviours are required. Establish the role of the chair, and how questions will be fielded - the lag on some technologies mean that cutting across or jumping in on a question can cause confusion. The Chair will need to actively manage cues for additional questions and follow ups, and panel members need to be more than usually attentive to direction from the Chair
The interview itself
Panel members should review the guidance on selecting candidates.
All participants should allow a few minutes before the session to account for any connection challenges. The Chair of the panel should ensure that all the panel are on the call before admitting the candidate from the virtual 'lobby'. The meeting organiser should have the candidate's contact details to hand in case the candidate is not in the lobby by the scheduled start time.
Candidates who are using a University of Oxford account will be able to bypass the lobby. They should wait for a telephone call from the Chair or meeting organiser before clicking the link to join the MS Teams meeting (see the guidance on Virtual interview set-up for advice on how to create and share the meeting link.)
In addition to the Chair’s usual welcome to the candidate, it is worth checking that the candidate has a good internet connection and that the video (if available) and audio are working effectively. The Chair should also explain the protocol in the event of any technology glitches during the interview, this should be planned and sent in writing to the candidate before the interview.
Introductions from panellists should proceed in the normal way. To appear to be looking at the candidate, participants should understand that they need to look at the camera, where possible. It can be helpful to move the tile/image of the candidate on the screen closer to the camera, to provide a more natural sightline. When assessing candidates you should approach this in the same way you would if you were in a face-to-face interview.
As the interview progresses, the Chair may need to give clearer direction than normal to structure the interview and manage questions from the panellists. For example:
- ‘Stage managing’ the move from one panel member to another
- Agreeing and sticking to a question protocol, for example allocating panel members to particular question topics, or to take the lead with a particular candidate. Rules for ad-hoc and follow up questions should be clear, and managed by the Chair. You may wish to use the functionality to raise a 'hand' on MS Teams to facilitate this.
- Ensuring that panellists do not speak too quickly, or intervene too fast with follow up questions
- Being alert to the possibility that the candidate has not properly heard or understood the question and/or had a chance to finish their answer
Use of chat function
The meeting chat is visible to all participants, including the candidates. We strongly advise the meeting chat function is not used.
It is important to give candidates enough time for their own questions, particularly if they have not had the opportunity to engage as much as usual with the hiring manager and the wider department. Administrators may need to factor this in when scheduling interviews.
It may be harder to convey the culture of your department/ function to a candidate through a video interview, as they will not get opportunity to view their potential place of work. You may wish to set aside additional time or arrange further calls to provide more of an insight into the department / function.
Remember that interviews are a two-way process. In addition to the formal interview, it important to ensure that candidates feel that they have gained sufficient insight into the organisation and its culture through the broader recruitment process.