Diverse Interview Panels – Tips for Recruitment Officers and H.R.

Tips for Recruitment Officers and H.R.

The creation of a genuinely meritocratic culture means affording every individual  the opportunity to participate equally in the organisation. Opportunity to participate means every person being able fully show their potential and talent and to be recognised and rewarded on a fair and equal basis for their effort. This requires that organisations create environments that enable, support, recognise and affirm peoples best efforts. Creating a conducive environment requires a deep and nuanced awareness into all the ways that people are subtlety and covertly undermined, prevented or excluded from equal participation.  Creating an enabling culture in an organisation begins in the recruitment phase. Setting up diverse interview panels is an important step towards providing  the opportunity for someone to show their best and to initiate them into a culture environment where diversity is honoured and valued.

The approach suggested below iss designed to give people a fair chance to show their skills and potential. The questions allow for answers’ from non-traditional or formal settings and are open ended and avoid cultural bias. They asses behavior needed for positions and cultural fit with the organization. The approach aims elicit honest responses and assesses potential based on past performance

It is  recommend that prospective panel members should do mock or practice interviews with people in similar positions to what they are interviewing for or with the manager filling the position

Questions to ask ourselves:

  • Do all recruiting practices and materials meaningfully and visibly reflect your organisations commitment to diversity/transformation?
  • Have you as a firm identified barriers to inclusion and developed specific strategies to eliminate barriers?
  • Are the panel members aware of potential barriers to inclusion and personal or cultural bias?
  • Have all tests or screening tools must be reviewed for bias. (HR and Psychology are heavily Euro or American Centric)

The panel members need to:

  • Understand the organizations’ culture, values and transformation strategy
  • Given thorough consideration to the actual skills, both technical and behavioural, are necessary to effectively do the job for which they are hiring
  • Know clearly what makes a person successful in this type of position and what would cause someone to fail in this position
  • Know what the challenges and difficult aspects are of this position
  • From the above considerations interview panellists should have a clear idea of what will be deemed appropriate or desirable responses and even rank them in terms of desirability (like a marking schedule in an essay exam)
  • Screening applications purely on the basis of the formal job qualifications and assessing potential based on that alone, as well as insisting that candidates have more attributes, skills or knowledge than is actually needed to do the job, or requiring proof of a track record of proven proficiency in formal settings all introduce the possibility of an exclusionary bias. Many people are recruited or promoted simply because a sponsor sees potential to grow “on the job”.
  • Consider the skills, knowledge and abilities gained through volunteer work or other non-traditional types of work or diverse life experiences.
  • Include members of diverse groups and/or with diverse perspectives on interview panels.

To be fair

  • Try to choose representatives who can relate to candidate and advocate for the candidate
  • Interviewers must think about and focus upon what people can do, not what they cannot do. Check for bias in the questions posed to different groups. What you cannot do is exclusionary-what you can do is invitational.
  • Interviewers must have proficiency in and show sensitivity to the needs and cultural differences of some members of under-represented groups.
  • Comparing candidates to each other is a very questionable practice. Rate each on objective pre-determined criteria and compare ratings. What people remember as impressive might not be what is important but rather what stood out for them due to their own values, taste, preferences or familiarity.
  • The interviewers overall impressions of the persons appearance, reaction and responsiveness will weigh more heavily on their thinking than the content of what the person said. Issues of trust are primary in a job interview. People tend to trust what is familiar more readily. This is where a bias to the familiar or cultural pre-conceptions or prejudice can play themselves out.
  • Consistency and fairness needs to be created in the way questions are distributed amongst the panel. If interviewing separately, it needs to be decided whether each is allocated specific questions or are they asking the same questions in order to compare views on responses?
  • Interview members need to be aware of their own body language or unconscious behaviour that introduces bias or the impression of, like chatting to one candidate before , interrupting, making seeming distracted, disinterested, irritable or dismissive

From the answers to the above questions you need to define what behaviours you could usefully explore in an interview like: attention to detail, tenacity, good communication skills, problem-solving ability, accuracy, adaptability and tolerance.

  • Ask for examples of actual scenarios from work and community or family life, hobbies or interests
  • If the person could not deal with an issue, like a past conflict with a manger,  or solve a problem, then what did they do in response? Seek varied examples


  • Describe the specific situation or task you were involved in
  • Detail the action and steps you took in the situation
  • Outline the results and outcome of your actions. What happened, what was accomplished and what did you learn
  • How have you applied what you learnt

Example questions

Competency – Decision Making Skills and Judgment

Tell me about a good decision you made recently at work.

Tell me about a recent problem you faced at work and how you found the best solution.

Tell me about a mistake you made at work and how you dealt with it.

What recent innovation have you made at work that had a positive outcome?

Has the person stuck to facts?

Stress Tolerance

Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills


Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback from your manager or supervisor. How did you handle this?


Tell me about a time you had to quickly adjust your work priorities to meet changing demands


Describe a difficult problem you had to sort out in your last job


Describe a new idea or suggestion that you made to your supervisor recently


Tell me about a time that you had to use your judgment and make a decision in your previous job

Team work

Describe a time that you demonstrated the ability to be an effective team member


Tell me how you went about setting the goals for your department and gaining commitment from your staff

Negotiation skills

Describe a situation when you negotiated with others in your organization to reach agreement

Attention to detail

Describe what you do to control mistakes in your work

Work Standards

Tell me about a time that you were not satisfied with your work performance. What did you do about it?

Planning and organizing

Describe a situation in which you had to schedule your activities to meet an objective

Communication Skills

Give me an example from your previous job where you had to rely on information given to you verbally to complete a task.

Give me an example of a complex process or task you had to explain to another person or group of people.

Tell me about a challenging writing assignment or important report you had to prepare recently.

Interpersonal Skills

We have all had to work with someone who is difficult to get along with. Give me an example of when this happened to you and how you handled it.

Tell me about a situation when a colleague was less cooperative than you needed or wanted.

Tell me about two of your colleagues/customers/employees who are very different to each other. How do you interact with each one?

Describe a situation when you had to persuade someone recently to accept an idea/plan/product.

Optional for senior and managerial positions

I like to ask insight and self-awareness and subjective experience questions because these talk to culture and role fit, expectations and how easily of otherwise it will be to manage the person.

(The seemingly illogical order is deliberate. They are cross examination type questions that should create and test hypothesis that you have made in advance or as you proceed with the interview)

  • What is your understanding of the position?
  • What are the challenges and demands of this position?
  • What are the values in life that you hold most dear?
  • Where do you see these values playing out most vividly in your life?
  • In what areas of your life are they neglected?
  • What is your belief or perception about our firm’s culture or the culture that we intend to create?
  • How do you perceive your potential fit within the culture?
  • How will you past experiences serve you in this position?
  • What attracts you to investment banking?
  • What types of tasks would you prefer to avoid?
  • In what aspects of yourself could you be challenged or stretched by the culture?
  • What influence will your management and leadership style have on the culture?
  • What are the biggest compliments that people have given you?
  • What personal feedback do you most easily receive?
  • What are the criticisms that people have made about you?
  • What in peoples feedback have you find difficult to hear?
  • What are the strengths and resources that you bring to the position?
  • What are your personal challenges or shortcomings?
  • What are the growth points or edges that you still need to work on?
  • What do you find most useful in terms of how you prefer to be managed?
  • What management style brings out the best in you?
  • What management styles do not work for you?
  • How do you deal with confrontation and conflict?
  • Give me examples?
  • How do you deal with non-performing staff? (loaded question in a diverse culture with all our issues of exclusion as a potential cause of poor performance)
  • Can you give me a few examples?
  • Did you have alternative hypotheses about why they were non-performing?
  • Has this application/interview process made you aware of any blind-spots within yourself?
  • What do you think brings out the best in people?
  • How do you do that?

These questions are not about content but rather how the person deals with them.

On Boarding

The on boarding needs to be seen as part of the recruitment process

What will make employees feel welcome, that they have got what they signed up for and that they are oriented within the organisations culture.

Let employees know about any particular needs or considerations for the new employee.

Ensure employees are aware of the firm’s commitment to create a workforce which reflects the diversity of the community it serves. Let them know what they can do or what support they may seek if they feel that the firm is not living up to its commitment

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