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4 Benefits of Using Panel Interviews to Assess Legal Candidates


Anyone trying to attract the most qualified executive candidates is racing against the hourglass. The interview process consumes valuable time and resources, so it makes sense to streamline it as much as possible. 

Conducting panel interviews is one of the best ways to do this. 

The panel interview puts candidates through a well-defined, rigorous process with the C-Suite to determine top contenders. 

Here are four additional reasons why you should incorporate panel interviews into your recruiting strategy.

You’ll See Faster Hires.

Unless you’re relying on the expertise of a legal recruitment firm, hiring a legal or compliance professional can take six months or more, depending on the position. Using panel interviews can shorten the interview process by as much as a month.

Panel interviews are also attractive to candidates because they reduce the number of interviews and allow them to assess their potential management team. 

“If they’re going to be interviewing with four or five different people, they can come in for one to two hours and see everyone as opposed to doing multiple individual interviews,” said Betsy Livesay, manager of organization development at Louisville Gas and Electric Company based in Louisville, Kentucky. “In addition to demonstrating respect for a candidate’s time, the panel approach conveys the importance the hiring team places on the interview process.”

You’ll Gain a More Objective Assessment. 

Most legal recruiters are well aware interviewer bias exists, but it’s difficult to control implicit attitudes. Bias can take many forms, from having a more positive feeling toward a particular candidate who shares a similar background or interest to a “gut instinct” based on perception.  

Panel interviews that use a scorecard to grade candidates make the process more objective. Panelists should have 10-12 questions ready, ranging from experiential to behavioral and leadership assessment questions. Questions should be assigned based on the panelist’s area of expertise within the organization. The same questions must be asked of each candidate in order to compare and contrast responses. 

After the interviews have been conducted, the hiring team must conduct evaluation and assessment. The combination of the panel interview and the assessment process should clearly reveal the top two contenders that will be asked back for more in-depth discussion.

You Can Test the Candidate’s Ability to Perform Under Pressure.

Witnessing how candidates perform during the panel interview is an excellent measure for determining how he or she will operate under a stressful situation. While many high performing leaders enjoy challenges and deliver impressive results in this format, some become rattled and perform poorly. Noticeable anxiety is a strong indicator the candidate is not a good fit for a high-stakes legal or compliance position. 

To make the most of this interview format, have the panel ask open-ended questions designed to elicit revealing responses. 

Some examples include: 

● What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?  Tell me a story that demonstrates these leadership values in practice within the workplace.

● What type of work culture do you excel in?  What motivates you and what irritates you or gets you down?

● What has been the most challenging issues of your career?  How did you come to your decision to resolve the matter?  Thinking back, would you have handled the situation differently?

They Allow You to Sell the Opportunity.

Panel interviews give the executive team a chance to showcase the strongest attributes of the company and allow the candidate to ask questions. During the process, the candidate can begin to envision what it will be like to interact with various company executives.

“It gives candidates the opportunity to really see the synergies among our people from different disciplines and how well they are connected and interact,” said Mark Smolik, Vice President, General Counsel and Compliance Officer at Exel, a 40,000 employee division of Deutsche Post DHL, which incorporates panel interviews in its executive hiring process.

Although it’s important to paint your company in the best light to candidates, interviewers should avoid the trap of spending too much time giving a sales pitch and not enough time asking insightful questions. 

Panel interviews are an efficient ways to objectively assess legal candidates and compliance candidates in a challenging environment. They should generally run between 60-90 minutes – enough time to have meaningful dialogue with a candidate, but not so long the process becomes tedious for both sides. Interviews should be scheduled over the course of 1 to 2 days, allowing the executive team to compare the candidates back-to-back. They can be customized according to the parameters and time frame of the search, so they’re a good fit for almost any company. 

For more advice on assessing legal candidates and evaluating compliance candidates, including specific questions to ask, download our free eBook, “8 Ways to Effectively Evaluate Legal and Compliance Candidates.” 

8 Ways to Effectively Evaluate Candidates

Topics: Legal Talent   |   Recruiting   |   Compliance


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