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The EpiPen Fiasco and Its Effect on Employees

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the EpiPen fiasco that happened last week. The price of prescription medication and healthcare in general in this nation is getting out of control.

But that’s a topic for another day.

There is a takeaway for all business leaders out there that has nothing to do with the price hike. The lesson revolves around how business decisions like this, made by the upper echelon, affects lower level employees.

Because they do.

Imagine an accountant who work for Mylan. They have no control over pricing or production or anything closely related to the scandal, but the minute the news breaks, their phone is blowing up with family members and friends asking how they could do something like this.

Or the employee whose own child needs an EpiPen for a peanut allergy and now has to pay more even with an employee discount – if they even get a discount.

And then these employees, who are fielding questions from everyone they know and maybe those they don’t, hear that the CEO has increased her pay significantly. Unless their pay has increased by the same rate (doubtful), what are they supposed to feel about that?

I wonder if any communication was shared with employees when leaders realized this was going to hit the fan or if any communication has been shared since. Did employees know their CEO was going to go on all these news outlets after the fact and share what she has shared? Do they have talking points they can use when questioned about the event?

I would be surprised if the answer was yes. History and employer norms tell us that outside of the higher leadership levels, employees were just as surprised by all of this as we were.

Some may argue that leaders don’t have to tell employees these things. I would say that not having to doesn’t mean shouldn’t. With employer to employee communication being the top complaint of employees everywhere, things like this only widen the gap.

And employers never know when that gap is going to get to wide for employees to cross anymore.

So while Presidential hopefuls and the media continue to crucify the company for what they’ve done to consumers, I will think about what they’ve done to their employees.

In the end, both sides were screwed.

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Moving Beyond HR Leader – My #CAHR Session

Moving from HR Leader to Business Leader

Updated 8/31/16
If you weren’t able to attend the session, I’ve added the presentation here. It was so well received and very clear to me that HR practitioners want to contribute as business leaders.

Today, at 1:30 PT I will be presenting at the California HR Conference (CAHR). My presentation is titled: Moving from HR Leader to Business Leader: The Knowledge Every Practitioner Must Have. This is fairly new content for me and I’m excited about delivering it.

Here’s why.

As a corporate HR practitioner for eleven years I focused on my tiny little world of HR. Sure, as the opportunity arose, I would learn about the business and try to understand all of the business terms being used. Inevitably though, I had so much to focus on as a practitioner that I didn’t really dive into the business as I should.

And that was a mistake.

Once I opened my own business, I realized how much opportunity I had missed to be a true partner in the business by not learning more about the business. In short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that prevented me from being a true business leader. Something I desperately wanted to be and something I think all practitioners should be.

It isn’t enough these days to be an HR leader, we need to be business leaders.

We need to understand the business as well as every other leader. We need to know finance, marketing and sales as well as the individuals running those teams. We need to be able to speak and understand the lingo. We need to know how decisions impact the business and how to create people strategies that help achieve the business strategies.

And we need to do it all without asking for permission.

I didn’t fully understand all of this until I became an entrepreneur. I don’t think many seated practitioners understand it. Not because they don’t want to or can’t, but because they can’t get out of the weeds of the day to day long enough to realize it’s worth.

So that’s what I’ll be covering in an hour and fifteen minutes today. If you happen to be at the conference, stop by and say hello – even if you don’t attend my session. If you aren’t at the conference follow along on the social channels to get the inside scoop.

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3 Places to Set Expectations During the Recruiting Process

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I believe that much of the conflict in the workplace is due to one of two issues. Poor communication or improper expectation setting. It’s an issue with the latter I’m going to focus on today. I’m a big fan of expectation setting. I like knowing what is going to happen. I realize that things can change or be slightly different than my original expectations, but I can always deal with things better when I have some idea of how things are going to go.

Most businesses could do a better job of setting expectations with employees. Some should even work on setting expectations with customers. But nearly all of them need to set better expectations with candidates.

Because right now we all pretty much stink at it.

The number one complaint from candidates is that they receive no communication after submitting their resume, or after a phone interview, or after a face to face, or after they were promised an offer would be coming and then….nothing.

Maybe they didn’t deserve any communication. Maybe they should not have any expectation of a follow up. But if those expectations weren’t set by the company, they will be assumed by the candidate and this is what gets us all in trouble.

What’s frustrating about this, and a bit mind boggling, is that setting expectations with candidates is fairly easy. Possibly the easiest of all expectations to set. Here are three different places you could easily do a little expectation setting with potential candidates and future employees.

On Your Careers Site:
Without a doubt the single most important piece of property a recruiter owns is the careers page on their website. This page is used for so many things. Employer branding, job postings, benefit sharing and of course, expectation setting. Use a small space to describe the recruitment process and what type of follow up candidates can expect at each stage. You can put in estimated time frames (be honest) to let candidates know how long it typically takes you to respond and in what circumstances they should expect no response at all.

During the Application Process:
Since the majority of companies use an online application, why not have a page during the process that explains what happens after they hit submit. This could even be the submit page. Just a few brief paragraphs that describe what could happen if the company is interested and what will happen if they aren’t. If you use autoresponders (you should use autoresponders) then don’t just send the default email your ATS provider includes, customize it to explain the process. The more times you tell people, the more they listen. I promise this is true.

During Each Interview:
Part of every interview should be dedicated to “what’s next”. This is where the interviewer needs training in how to properly set expectations, especially with someone they know will not be moving on. I’m a big fan of being honest in the moment, but if the interviewer isn’t comfortable with that, then the least they can do is explain that candidates moving on to the next stage will receive a phone call while others will receive an email – or whatever the appropriate process is for your business.

The more upfront you are, the less individuals have reason to get upset. The more you are honest about how long things could take or the types of communication they may receive, then the less likely they are to feel slighted. Even if they don’t like that you only communicate in email or that your recruitment process takes three months, at least they knew that going in.

The challenge, especially for small businesses who struggle to recruit anyway, is to keep candidates engaged with good feelings towards the employer even if the role doesn’t work out for them. Setting expectations is the first step to keeping them in good graces.

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Four Reasons Outsourcing HR is the Way to Go for Small Businesses

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*Today my friends at National PEO and I teamed up to talk about outsourcing HR services. Some confuse what I do with a PEO and while they are similar the models are different. Often companies find that using a mixture of a PEO solution with a consultant provides everything they need. This is a sponsored post.*

In my work with small businesses over the last several years, I have learned one very real truth. Most do not think about human resource issues until they are forced.The ones doing the forcing may be the Department of Labor, the EEOC or some hotshot attorney with an ax to grind. By then it’s likely too late. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, from the moment the first employee is hired, small businesses need human resource management.

They need policies, procedures, a growth strategy and someone to execute all of the above. They must ensure they are compliant with both state and federal law and that they have some mechanism to stay current as those laws change. They must establish compensation strategies, performance management procedures and recruiting strategies. Thinking about how they will handle absences from work, what benefits they will offer and how they will administer payroll are just the tip of the iceberg.

Even with only one employee, human resource management becomes a big deal.

The interesting thing is that even though there is a lot of work to be done in the area of human resources, that work rarely requires a full time professional if the business size is small. The establishment of policies and procedures may take time, but the overall administration does not require a dedicated person full time until the business is a bit larger, usually over 125 employees. Even then, there is a way businesses can ensure all of their human resource needs are met while keeping payroll and administration costs down.

Of course, I’m talking about outsourcing.

Outsourcing allows a business to feel confident that their HR needs are met while keeping cost at bay. There are several ways businesses can outsource their HR needs. One way is to utilize a PEO such as National PEO. A PEO will handle payroll processing and tax filings, benefit administration, workers’ compensation and more. Another way is to utilize a HR Consultant who has the expertise to handle all human resource needs and create strategies for future growth. Both have their merits and place with small businesses and are often successful in tandem.

There are a lot of reasons that outsourcing HR makes sense for small businesses. Listed below are four that business leaders should consider.

Compliance: I always say that when it comes to HR, leaders don’t know what they don’t know. Often times, DOL, EEOC or Legal charges do not come about because of willful negligence on the part of an employer, but of ignorance. The employer typically has no idea they are doing anything wrong, and yet they are. Unfortunately, our legal system doesn’t usually care if the negligence was willful or not. To avoid costly lawsuits and fines, employers must ensure their HR processes are legally compliant. Outsourcing HR means an expert will always be on hand to ensure the employer is always compliant.

Offerings: Small businesses have a tough time deciding what benefits and perks to offer. More than deciding on what to offer, they may struggle paying for them. Further, with changes in healthcare, small businesses may not have access to the right types of benefit plans that can help them compete for the talent they need. Outsourcing HR opens up the opportunities a small business has to offer more competitive benefits. Further, the outsourcing agent will be able to help a small businesses identify and implement programs that work best for their business size and style.

Service: Small business leaders have a lot on their plate. The last thing they need is to spend their entire day trying to figure out a payroll issue or help an employee understand why their benefits claims are being denied. Seemingly small HR issues can end up wrecking an entire day. Time a small business leader just doesn’t have. Outsourcing provides a dedicated resource employees can call with questions. This person then uses their time to fix the issue while the business leader can continue to focus on the business.

Cost Savings: While this will vary from program to program, outsourcing HR does provide a cost savings over a full time employee with benefits. Depending on services, outsourcing HR offers one fixed cost that helps businesses budget. But beyond the tangible cost savings, outsourcing HR offers intangible savings as well. If the person currently handling HR administration, also wears other hats, as an Office Manager for example, removing some of this work from their workload will decrease stress and improve morale. There is also cost associated with getting things done in a timely manner, which those wearing multiple hats often struggle with, that should be considered. Finally, the cost of mismanaging the compliance issues mentioned first can be very high. Outsourcing HR helps to mitigate the risk of having a costly lawsuit.

The absolute worst thing a small business can do is put off thinking about human resource management until it’s too late. If business leaders and support staff are inundated with HR issues and are not confident they are handling them correctly, then they are running the risk of an unhappy employee making a phone call that could lead to major trouble. Often the fines and payouts from these cases are detrimental to the longevity of a small business. Thinking about human resource compliance early and determining the best way for it to be handled removes a huge burden for small businesses.

The peace of mind that comes with knowing your business is legally compliant is priceless. The ability to pick up the phone and call an expert who can talk you through a very tricky employee issue is worth it’s weight in gold. The ability to hire and retain talent knowing that their day to day needs with pay and benefits will be met means a leader can do what they need to in order to grow the business. Outsourcing HR provides all of these benefits and more.

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What Theme Parks Can Teach Us About Easing Employee Angst

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My family and I did the Disney World tour last week. Well, not the full tour but Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Universal. My son is six and we figured we should probably make this trip before he was too big to really appreciate it.

Too late.

We have a thrill seeker who wants big, belly dropping rides and could care less about a fuzzy creature in a costume. We had a good time and he is obsessed with superheroes so Island’s of Adventure was worth every penny, but we won’t be one of those families who makes visiting Disney a regular vacation spot.

Our trip did inspire a few great blog post ideas so be ready for Disney/Universal related posts sprinkled into the next few weeks. It’s no surprise that Disney runs like a well oiled machine. Their employee training program is top notch. We did not come across anyone who wasn’t happy to be doing their job…or at least anyone who wasn’t really good at acting like they were happy to be doing their job.

It is the happiest place on earth after all.

With the amount of individuals traipsing through each park on a daily basis, employees are bound to have a little angst. To deal with that many human beings and not have something irritate you would be inhuman. One day it rained and I watched as employee after employee explained why the ride was shut down (lightening), what would happen with their FastPass+ time and answered questions about when the ride might open back up as though they were weather men….or Zeus….or God.

And they never showed irritation. Even when parents yelled that they paid too much to have rides shut down. Even when children cried and threw temper tantrums because they really wanted to ride the ride. Even when they had every right to scream that they could not control the weather and that the ride being shut down was not their fault, they never showed frustration.

I mentioned to my husband that I would love to know what type of training Disney had conducted that had helped create patience because it certainly seemed as that is what they had done.

But it actually wasn’t patience training or anything on an emotional or intellectual level.

It was simple logistics.

At Island’s of Adventure there is a ride called Pteranodon Flyers. The ride is designed for children between 36 and 56 inches in height. One child between that height may be accompanied by one adult over that height. That’s the only way to ride. One child between that height and one person over. There is a large sign at the entrance of the ride explaining that. This isn’t a thrill ride or something bigger kids or most adults would fine enjoyable. It’s designed to give smaller children something of their own.

My husband rode the ride with my son so I sat and waited. During my 45 minute wait, I watched the employees working the entrance of that ride explain the process approximately 5000 times. Every single person who walked up could not or would not read the sign so the rules had to be explained over and over again. With patience. With grace. Without angst.

Adults were mean. Teenagers scoffed and made fun. The workers were yelled at and told it wasn’t fair that grown adults or children over 56 inches couldn’t ride the 80 second ride that simply took kids on a quick swing through the sky. The employees never lost their cool. Never yelled back.

Finally, when the line died down, my HR brain had to ask how they were able to do this. I wanted to know the secret. It was much simpler than I imagined.

The workers smiled and said that it was easy to do when you only had to do it for a short time. The workers of the ride switched positions so often that everyone took a turn explaining the process and getting yelled at and everyone also got a break from it.

Logistics.

Sure they had been through training. Sure they had been told that this was going to happen, but knowing that they only had to endure it for short bursts of time throughout the day instead of the whole day made it much more bearable.

Can you imagine doing that for a solid 8 hours straight with only one small lunch break.

Could a change in scenery help with employee angst in your business? Every role has unpleasant parts that employees have to deal with, but could mixing it up a bit help them deal with those unpleasant parts a bit easier?

It’s interesting to think about. It’s also a great reminder that we often look for big solutions to problems. Hours and hours of training may have helped, but moving folks around from time to time does the trick as well.

And what I love is that you don’t have to be as big as Disney or Universal to implement these types of things. Big business ideas easily scalable to small businesses as well.

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Sexual Harassment Outside of Work – What Can I Do?

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I received an email from a reader last week that asked for a bit of HR advice. This company is small, approximately 45 employees with no HR onsite. The office manager handles HR and this question was a bit out of her expertise.

The question surrounded two employees who traveled together for a work trip. The traveled to a client’s office and then had dinner and drinks with several of the client’s team that evening. A male member of his team took a liking to a female member of the client’s team and you can imagine what happened next. Drinks were flowing, inhibitions were lowered and the male said some things he probably shouldn’t have. He made a few innuendos, a few suggestions and half way into the night was told by her and her colleagues he was out of line. He shrugged it off as he was just joking and everyone left for the evening.

The employees came back to the office and the other member on the trip (also a male) was so worried about the fallout from this event that he told the boss to give him a heads up.

Now what.

The boss had many questions. Do I call the client? Do I wait to see if they complain? Do I discipline the employee? Do I fire the employee?

Here’s my take. (You should read my disclaimer before proceeding)

Do I call the client or wait to see if they complain? Call them. If calling after a visit is customary then most certainly. Even if it isn’t I might do it in this situation. I wouldn’t outright ask if my employee sexually harassed your employee but I would ask for feedback on the trip and the employees who visited.

Do I discipline or fire the employee? That depends. Does the client file a complaint? If they do then yes the employee should be disciplined at a minimum and depending upon the severity may be terminated. If they don’t, I would still encourage this leader to talk to the employee based on the feedback from his colleague and remind the employee of the sexual harassment policy and how it extends beyond his fellow employees but to clients and vendors as well.

Sexual harassment is a situation where employees can be held accountable for off duty conduct if it is going to affect the workplace after the fact. Since this was directed towards a client, it obviously could affect the workplace.

Unfortunately, this employer did not have a sexual harassment policy nor had they done any type of preventing sexual harassment training. We are resolving both of those issues next month with a fully revised handbook and training.

In this situation, the client did mention the behavior but did not wish to file a formal complaint. The leader explained that he would be speaking to the employee and would be sure to stress the seriousness of the offense. The client was happy with that. This employer and more importantly, this employee, got lucky.

Sexual harassment is a serious matter. It’s amazing to me that in 2016 it’s still so common place. Adding alcohol to the mix only seems to add to the problems. Employers must be sure they have a solid anti-harassment policy and provide regular training to to all employees. Then, when it happens, discipline should be consistent and swift. If your business isn’t taking this seriously, you are walking a very tight rope that could break at any moment.

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Would Your Employees Vote For You?

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Last Wednesday we held our very first DisruptHR event in Los Angeles. I really had no idea how the HR professionals in the LA area would react to this event when I decided to start a chapter here, but I’m happy to say, they responded well. DisruptHR will definitely be an ongoing event in Los Angeles!

Of course no event would be possible without the help of generous sponsors willing to lend their support. Our top sponsor for DisruptHR LA was Haufe, a company doing some pretty cool stuff in the HR space. The CEO, Kelly Max spoke with our crew for a few minutes about how he obtained the CEO job at Haufe and how he may lose it next year.

And not because he’s a poor performer.

Leadership positions are given out a little differently at Haufe. Much like what we are seeing on our tv’s every single day out of Hillary and Donald, they are campaigned for.

That’s right. Kelly was elected CEO and has to campaign to keep that role.

With my organizer duties someone said something to me while Kelly was explaining how this worked so I missed the length of each term, but it may have been as little as one year.

That’s certainly not something I’ve heard of before and is rather intriguing.

Of course employees vote on leaders every single day. They vote by how productive they are. They vote by how often they find themselves pursuing the job boards. The vote by putting in more than they are required to make a big project happen. They vote by helping their family and friends get jobs with their employer. They vote by giving two weeks notice and only working 3 days of it.

But what if there was an actual vote?

Moreover, what if you, as a leader, had to campaign?

What would your platform be? Where would you stand on the major issues facing your company? Do you even know what they are?

After Kelly finished I asked the crowd how many of them would actually want to campaign for their jobs again and many of them raised their hands.

So now I’ll pose those questions to you. Would you campaign for your job and, if you did, would your employees vote you in?

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Making HR a Partner in your Small Business

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Regardless of whether your human resources is managed by an in-house human resource professional, an outsourced option or an in-house wearer of many hats (read Office Manager), that individual needs to be a true partner in the business. That is, they need to have the ability to make suggestions, understand what is happening in the business and create strategy ensures business objectives are being met from a people perspective.

Often, when I bring this up to small business leaders I am met with the objection that their individual is not capable of doing those things implying the skill set isn’t there. I usually retort with the question of whether or not they are actually allowed to do those things.

Because nine times out of ten, they aren’t.

Them not being allowed usually isn’t as much of a factor of someone actually telling them they can’t, but no one encouraging them that they can.

While a seasoned HR pro may insert themselves into business operations naturally, someone stepping into a small business environment or in an outsourced situation may not feel like they can be a true partner. Or maybe they don’t know how. Either way, the lack of partnership means the HR function is nothing more than that of a compliance police and is doing nothing to actually help build the business.

If you are a leader in a small business and realize that the human resource function, regardless of who manages it, is essential for more than just compliance, then here are a few ways to make sure HR is a partner in the business.

Leverage Technology:
With the vast array of options available to companies of all sizes there is no reason that even the smallest of businesses can’t utilize HR software to manage payroll, benefits, applicant tracking and more. having an HR leader inundated with manual processes leaves them little time to act as a true partner.

The Knowledge Economy:
It is simply not possible to offer suggestions, implement strategy or affect change without full knowledge of the what, how and why of the business. Any leader, HR or otherwise, who doesn’t have full business knowledge should be given the opportunity to learn it quickly so that they can become a contributing partner. What’s more, not only should they be given the opportunity, but it should be expected of them.

Further, they must be included on meetings and information that continues that knowledge and allows them to understand the business at the same level the CEO does.

Give Them a Vote:
This is a big one. I once worked for a leader who stated that HR had a vote but it didn’t count. He said that he would ask HR’s opinion only to make them feel included, but ultimately their thoughts didn’t factor into his final decision. So basically, they didn’t have a vote. The HR leader who realizes their vote doesn’t count will stop giving it and certainly won’t be a contributing partner. When decisions need to be made that call for meetings and group votes, include HR and make their vote count.

Now, once all that is done, you will really be able to decide if you have the right person in place to actually be a partner. If you do, your business will only be better for it. If you don’t, you’ll at least know you have work to do.

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CEO’s Have the Most to Learn About Human Behavior

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Human behavior is captivating. The what, why and how we do things makes for fascinating study. It has turned people watching into a sport and neuroscience into an industry trending towards upwards of $30 billion in 2020.

That’s billion, with a B.

We want to understand what makes us tick. We want to know what happens in our brain when we see, smell, touch or taste certain things. We want to understand the differences in our brains that makes one of us have OCD and the other have tendencies towards psychopathy. And of course we want to use all of that information to help us better interact with others.

Well that should be the goal at least. Why study what makes us tick if we aren’t going to use that to make us and others better?

There is one group of individual who I feel could learn the most from studying human behavior. I gave it away in the title so no surprise at this point. A CEO could benefit greatly from not only fully understanding why they do the things they do, but why others do as well. A CEO could change the course of an entire business by having a thorough understanding of the people who worked for her and how to interact with them in a way that they responded to.

It’s a bold claim, but I stand by it.

Ironically enough. I find that CEO’s are often the least likely to be interested. I mean, they worked their way up to the top right? They have the skills and experience to run multi-million/billion dollar companies. Obviously they know what they are doing. Obviously they know how to interact with people and to get people to respond in the most effective ways.

Seriously, when are we going to get that sarcasm font.

I conducted a webinar last week on How to Conduct a Culture Audit. In the webinar I explain how a big part of conducting the audit is simply observing what is currently happening in the business. I often find after doing this that the CEO is the most surprised by the findings.

Findings like employees feel like business updates in memo format are less trustworthy than when the CEO shares the news directly. Even though both formats provide very accurate updates.

Findings like employees respond very well and have some of their most productive days when the CEO’s office door remains open. (The impact of an open/shut door on human behavior is one neuroscientist should get on immediately. I’m telling you there is an impact)

Findings like leaders watch the way the CEO walks in to the office in the mornings to determine what kind of day they are about to have and that even if they read him wrong, just thinking it’s going to be a bad day is often enough to trigger one.

All fascinating behavior patterns that, when the CEO is aware, he can do amazing things with. The smallest things, like an open or closed door, can affect employee mood, thoughts about the viability of the company, desire, and in some cases ability, to be productive and desire to stay with the company long term. When a CEO knows this he can decide if there is anything he can do to affect these things in a more positive manner. Understanding the behavior helps us impact it.

We all have a lot to learn about human behavior and how we can work better together. But I certainly think CEO’s have the most to learn.

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Three Reasons Why Your Panel Interviews Aren’t Working

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I really don’t like panel interviews. I have never liked them. Not as a candidate. Not as a recruiter. They are awkward, uncomfortable and rarely glean any useful information that wasn’t already discovered. Further, if they are not handled properly they become more subjective than objective.

Not a big fan….at all.

Here are three quick reasons why I most panel interviews do not work.

Five Panelist, One Chatty Cathy
Regardless of the number of people you have on your panel, one or two are probably going to be more dominate personalities than the others. In any setting, they do most of the talking and a panel interview will be no different meaning less dominate personalities may have questions that never get asked.

And therefore never get answered.

What She Said
I once asked four panelist who happened to be a supervisor and three direct reports what they thought about a candidate. The first employee stated that they liked the candidate and pointed out a few reasons why. That employee’s supervisor immediately and aggressively disagreed and pretty much acted like the employee was ignorant in their assessment. You can imagine what opinion the other two employees then gave.

What she said.

Having a supervisor and their direct reports on the panel likely means the boss’s opinion will be everyone’s.

Jump, Jump, Jump Around
Since most panel interviews fly by the seat of their pants, the questions can be very jumbled. Interviewers may jump around from one question to another without getting a thorough and deep answer to any of them. One panelist may want to dig in a little deeper to an answer, but before they can do that another person jumps in with an unrelated question.

It can sometimes be so disjointed it will make your head swim.

For these reasons and more, panel interviews are not something I encourage. I would rather have a potential candidate spend more time in the office and go through multiple one on one interviews if all of those people really need a sign off.

Which most of the time they don’t.

What do you think of panel interviews? Big fan or waste of time?

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