NUMBER 883 • 8 DECEMBER • APPOINTMENTS: THE PANEL INTERVIEW
Despite the relatively low validity and reliability of the Panel Interview in predicting future performance in a job role (Psytech International, n.d.; Tyson and York, 1996), there is a place for it in the selection of staff. It is a useful point at which to explore issues connected with the `fit' of the individual within the staff group and for the particular local circumstances. It is an important opportunity for the line manager to influence the selection and make-up of their own staff group. Managers quite rightly want to influence the process at critical points and experience shows that managers should stay close to the decision-making part of the staff selection process, as the relationship formed at this stage is a critical factor in forming team and organisational loyalties and commitment (Tyson and York, 1996).
What might an ideal process look like?
An ideal process might be spread over three days, though they do not need to be three consecutive days. On day one applicants would produce their certificates, evidence of identity and other documentation, and have their screening interview and their personal interview (Scottish Executive, 2001). On day two applicants would attend the selection centre, on day three, in the morning, the Selectors would meet for the `wash-up'. Applicants could be brought back for their panel interview either that afternoon or at a later date.
A Possible Model?
Given the number of trained staff needing to be involved in the process, one possible solution might be to separate it into four parts, with the parts being carried by different people. The first part is the job analysis, preparation of the job description and person specification. These aspects need to be carried out by the employing organisation as managers will know best the requirements of the role. The second part comprises what are loosely described as `the checks'. These are the checks made into criminal records (Scottish Office, 1996), the Scottish Social Services Register (the Register), the Register of Unsuitable Adults and the applicant's references. The references need to be carefully followed up to check on such things as the employment record and reasons for leaving employment. The third part of the process is the selection centre, which comprises the exercises relevant to the role, and where trained selectors assess the capabilities of applicants. Included in this part would be the screening and personal interviews. The fourth and final part of the process is the panel interview, where key managers direct questions to the candidate in order to complete their picture of the applicant and to gauge her or his match with the team and the role. The panel interview also gives applicants an opportunity to satisfy themselves that they fully understand the requirements of the role.
In order to maximise the efficiency of the process, it is possible to separate the parts out. All of the process is predicated upon job analysis and definition being carried out by the employing organisation, and the employers' preparation of a job description and person specification. The second and third parts of the process, that is the record checks and the selection centres, could be carried out by a centralised team of trained selectors and administrators who routinely design and run the record checks and the selection centres. These checks and selection centres, along with the screening and personal interviews, could be used to identify which of the applicants were deemed to be `capable' (or competent) and appointable for the role. This group of applicants, a smaller number than those on the original short leet, could then attend a panel interview, the fourth and final part of the process.
The splitting of the process along these lines would have the benefits of sparing employers the necessity of spending time on the longer and more technical assessment process while bringing the managers' influence to bear at the most critical aspects of the process for them – design of the job, matching appointable applicants with local requirements and the making of a final decision.
Implications for employers
he most significant implication for employers is that the technical aspects of the process – the assessment of capability of applicants – would be carried out by a team of staff from outwith their own organisation. For some, this might feel like the loss of a significant part of the selection process. However, experience around Scotland shows that this is the part of the process for which, in general, managers have the least appetite. Their interest seems to be mainly in the face to face panel interview. If this is the case, managers will be spared the time taken for detailed planning, setting up, administration and implementation of the selection centres, and their efforts will be focused on the part of the process which holds the most appeal and where they have the most impact.
At the end of the selection centre process managers would be offered a (relatively) short list of applicants who would be deemed appointable, and from whom they could choose, knowing that the rigorous checking and the thorough assessment of capability of applicants had been carried out. The panel interview could then focus on issues of matching – with the local team and environment – and pursuing issues identified as relevant by other parts of the process.
Skinner, K. (2003). Searching for the Holy Grail: Excellent staff and carers who work with children. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 2(1). pp.39-48