The impact of interview panels

Three silhouettes of men in a meeting


What organisations often lose sight of is that candidates consider potential new employers before even applying for a role, and they will be asking themselves: “Why should I work there?”

They are looking at your websites, social media channels and news articles to see how committed to diversity an organisation is and whether it is an inclusive environment where their ideas and skills will be welcomed and valued. Some candidates we know have screened more than 150 organisations before even applying for a job, to ensure they don’t face the same discrimination they’ve experienced in the past.

If you’ve successfully attracted diverse candidates to apply for a position, their first opportunity to get a real feel for the workplace culture is at interview. However interviews are subjective; people tend to hire candidates like themselves, so falling into the trap of poor diversity is particularly easy if a panel is one-dimensional.

The majority of senior leadership roles are held by white, heterosexual, able-bodied men, so it is no surprise that far too many interview panels consist of only these individuals and result in the employment of even more carbon copies of the panel members.

But a mixed panel, not just in terms of diversity, but also intersectionality, helps address the unconscious bias. It also sends a signal to the candidate that there are others, outside of the generic business mould, who are respected and understood in this business – someone they can aspire to be.

Every candidate should be asked the same questions so that familiarity — based on similarities in backgrounds between panel member and interviewee — cannot unfairly influence the process. Also evaluating candidates in real time is also essential because our mind can play tricks on us when we recall interviews and notes, allowing prejudices or positive associations through similarities to unintentionally creep into play again.

Most leaders understand the concept of unconscious bias, they just can’t believe it happens in their own organisation. Failure to address this means they miss out on the benefits of running a business with a diverse, innovative and productive workforce.