Category Archives: Feature Articles

Managing Reputational Risk

“Every candidate is a potential customer“: Managing Reputational Risk
By Cheryl Zeghers, Principal Consultant, InterSearch Middle East

As a graduate trainee Recruitment Officer with what was at the time and probably still is one of the world’s most successful fashion retailers this was my 1st lesson.  It was drummed into my head…we were taught don’t forget that even if the candidate is not hired he/ she should desperately want to work for the company and will walk away with a deep respect for the brand. I also spent 6 months working on the shop floor before I was allowed to interview any candidate so that I understood the business.  That was 25 years ago.

Organisations spend millions on positioning, branding and marketing only to have this undone in a second through unprofessional recruitment practices.  A few years ago I conducted a search for one of the world’s top automotive brands. Candidates who had previously been contacted by the internal recruiters of that company stated categorically that they would never care to repeat the experience of being interviewed by the company, never mind consider actually working for them and they would most definitely never buy one of their vehicles.

In the Middle East as in many places HR practitioners face the problem of receiving hundreds of unsolicited responses to company recruitment adverts. In addition to this there are various responses and invitations on LinkedIn. If there is high unemployment combined with an applicant naiveté candidates flood recruiters with CVs which are largely not vaguely relevant to the position advertised. Recruiters in turn despair at the number of responses they have to sift through and candidates berate the fact that they don’t ever receive a response.  The industry has reached a stalemate.  Recruiters are short of time and short tempered and candidates are frustrated in their efforts to find jobs and disenchanted with recruiters. In fact I would go so far as to say that some candidates and recruiters even dislike each other.

Company HR Departments in an attempt to short circuit the process of advertising and in order to cope with the work load then use contingent recruiters on success. They request recruiters to send them a short list. This exacerbates the problem. Earning commission on success (i.e. being paid once the successful candidate has started employment) creates a sales type of model for recruitment agencies with targets to achieve in terms of number of CVs sent out per day and placements. In that kind of environment, what I refer to as “spray and pray”, strict due process of screening and selecting is not always followed.  Companies then have third parties with no brand loyalty whatsoever representing them in an often unscrupulous and careless way.  Damage to the brand can then be perpetuated.

Line Managers become frustrated because they expect dedicated in-house HR business partners to find, screen and select top candidates for final interviews. However, these business partners are faced day to day with performance management issues, strategic change, operational and employee wellness which requires immediate attention and recruitment is delayed.

So, these are the problems. What are the solutions?

  1. Every candidate is a potential customer and should be treated as a priority with dignity, respect and care.
  2. HR Professionals should understand the operational requirements of the business.
  3. Companies should choose external service providers with great care and not only based on pricing.
  4. There should be a limited number of selected recruitment service providers. Increasing the number of service providers does not necessarily increase the number of candidates on the market.
  5. Companies should understand the difference between Recruitment and Executive Search.
  6. Recruitment is a mass approach used to bring in a vast amount of generic skills needed by an organization. This can be paid for on risk i.e. a percentage due on candidate start date. The candidates sought with this approach are not in short supply.
  7. Search is the process of methodologically researching and identifying candidates in the market who are highly skilled/ qualified/ educated and experienced and who are in demand hence short in supply and business imperative. This search process is paid for on a retained basis because without the retainer the service provider cannot justify and carry the significant costs incurred by the detailed research. This process takes time, thorough investigation and great care in order to correctly approach candidates who are not actually on the job market. The search company also needs to properly represent the company’s brand and create an customer experience of integrity and professionalism.
  8. Companies should select their service providers, differentiate clearly between Recruitment and Search providers and ensure that these providers are themselves educated, experienced and knowledgeable about the businesses that they service much like appointing a management consultant.
  9. Most importantly create a culture of humility and humanity when dealing with people who are making decisions about their livelihood and future careers.

Intersearch is a specialist Executive Search firm that focuses on finding those difficult to find key talent, critical, core and hot skills and selects top caliber candidates for business imperative positions throughout the world. We assist our clients in identifying and placing skilled and professional, senior managerial and executive staff.




Market Mapping in Oman

InterSearch is the only global executive search firm with an office in Oman, and we have a long history of serving our valued clients there. We take our national responsibilities very seriously and one thing that we are very good at doing is encouraging and supporting Omani candidates to develop successful careers with both our international and local Omani clients.

One of the things that helps us to do that is to identify and know who are the Omani talent with special skills and experience that are in demand.

From time to time we do what is called a Market Mapping so that we identify senior Omani nationals in particular disciplines, whether or not they are currently looking for another opportunity. We then keep track of those individuals and they are the first people we call when a specific opportunity comes up that they might be interested in. We build a database of Omani National talent so that we know who they are for future opportunities, and we do all of this in strictest confidence.

Recently our Research Team focused on identifying very senior Omanis with excellent experience in three particular disciplines:


Candidates are in large corporations with the title GM Corporate Planning or Manager Corporate Planning, and are one level down from the CEO (or maybe two levels down in a very large organisation). Age is minimum 35 and above and he/she usually has an MBA from an overseas university.


Candidates are mostly in large corporations or group with the title CFO or Finance Director. Some are in the big 4 accounting firms, or in a large consulting firm. All are fully qualified and with a minimum of 10-15 years’ experience in this field.

  1. HR

Candidates are in large corporations with the title GM Admin & HR, HR Director, VP HR, GM HR or Senior HR Manager. Candidates are one level down from the CEO (or maybe two levels down in a very large organisation). Age is minimum 35 and above and he/she usually has an MBA from an overseas university.

Please talk to InterSearch if you are looking for a senior Omani or GCC nationals in one of the above disciplines. Our unique expertise in identifying nationals is available for all GCC countries. We can help you to quickly identify the right candidate as well as advise you on current remuneration in the market.

InterSearch Appoints New Managing Director Middle East

InterSearch Middle East, one of the fastest growing executive search firms in the MEA region, recently promoted Samantha Robinson from General Manager UAE to Managing Director Middle East, following the retirement of John Robinson, founder and former Managing Director.

Samantha, who has 20 years combined executive search and in-house recruitment experience, joined InterSearch Middle East 10 years ago, initially as the General Manager of Oman, before moving to the UAE as General Manager four years ago.

Born in Kuwait, Samantha has an affinity with the Middle East and prior to joining InterSearch she worked in senior talent acquisition roles for leading firms including Merrill Lynch, BP International and Standard Chartered Bank.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be appointed as Managing Director and I look forward to leading InterSearch Middle East through the next stage of our growth strategy. We will shortly open our next InterSearch office in Abu Dhabi to add to our existing offices in Dubai, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

“I have worked closely with John for many years and look forward to continuing his legacy of delivering unparalleled high quality client and candidate experience, along with our uncompromised commitment to delivery excellence, through our strategic and collaborative approach,” said Samantha.

InterSearch opened its first office in Dubai in 1998 and is one of the original pioneers in the Middle East executive search industry.

“While my time as Managing Director of InterSearch Middle East has come to an end, I am delighted to be handing over the reins to Samantha, who has the passion, experience and talented team required to continue to serve existing and future InterSearch clients.

“The Middle East region remains an exciting market for executives, with wonderful opportunities available across all sectors.  Under Samantha’s leadership, I have no doubt that InterSearch’s specialized recruitment methodology, coupled with the capabilities of our highly skilled specialists, will ensure ongoing success for the placement of high-level talent,” said John Robinson, outgoing Managing Director of InterSearch Middle East.

Contingent Recruitment Business ‘Talent Development LLC’ Launched In Oman Market


We are delighted to announce that InterSearch has recently established a new contingent recruitment business in Oman.

Talent Development was created as a boutique, talent acquisition and executive selection recruitment consultancy offering a fully customized, flexible service to help organisations meet their specific recruitment needs.

As an InterSearch Middle East Company, Talent Development maintains the experience, intellectual property and quality control to identify, attract and hire the very best talent based on our clients requirements.

John Robinson, Chairman of InterSearch Middle East says, ‘We completely understand that InterSearch’s retained executive search business, which adheres to a very high level headhunting process, may not be the right solution for every company and every position. However, we were constantly being asked to support our clients at the mid management level because they valued our quality of service and our understanding of their business.’

Talent Development was created as a direct response from our customers who were asking for a local, professional, flexible and a customised recruitment solution provider that could focus on the junior professional right through to the director level vacancies using a lower cost contingent approach.

Since, establishing Talent Development, we have been overwhelmed with interest from our clients and our business has grown significantly. We are now dealing with our clients total recruitment needs and it is fantastic to offer a one-stop-recruitment solution throughout their business’, says Mohamed Al Kharusi, Chairman of Talent Development.

Daniel Robinson, General Manager for InterSearch and Talent Development says, ‘By ultimately listening to our clients, we have been able to weather the storm of the downturn in the market by a) continuing to service our clients and b) advising our clients on which recruitment approach is best suited to a particular position.

Talent Development has plans to introduce more services in the near future and look forward to sharing this news later on.

Please visit our website for further information


Candidate Assessments : An In-depth View



– By John Robinson, Managing Director – InterSearch Middle East

As one of the top global executive search firms most of our revenue comes from just that; retained executive search assignments for our clients. Producing a shortlist of top-quality candidates from among the best in the field, including those that were not actively looking. And then helping you hire and retain the best on the shortlist.

But what if our client already has a shortlist, from his own sources, or from another recruiter, or suggestions by others in the company etc? If he is already convinced of the quality and suitability of the candidates then why go to the expense of asking InterSearch to search for more candidates? That wouldn’t make sense. But there is still the issue of who is the best candidate?

InterSearch will be delighted to conduct a CANDIDATE ASSESSMENT EXERCISE on your behalf.

The exercise involves 7 steps:

  1. Information Gathering. Our client provides InterSearch with the relevant candidate CVs. We meet with you to fully understand the role and then we agree with you and document 8-10 of the most important selection criteria (including competencies) that define the ideal candidate
  2. Face to Face Interview. InterSearch develops a Candidate Interview Template for your review and approval. The interview Template lists the “hard” selection criteria (for example years of relevant experience, qualifications etc), current and expected remuneration, and behavioural interview questions designed to probe the “soft” skills/behaviours required.  We then interview all candidates, face-to-face, with location, interviewer, questions, process etc being exactly the same for all candidates.
  3. Initial Report/ Assessment. Following those personal interviews InterSearch will form our own views on the strength of each candidate against the agreed selection criteria as well as overall. We will then document our findings:A) Objective and consistent assessment of the strengths or otherwise of each candidate against each of the selection criteria.
    B) Overall ranking of candidates in terms of fully competent top candidate(s), reserve candidates and rejected candidates.
  4. Psychometric and Final Report/Assessment. Some clients wish to use also some form of psychometric appraisal in this exercise. If so then InterSearch is happy to organize and conduct those appraisals through a third party. InterSearch pulls all of the information and assessments together and produces our report; comparing each candidate against the selection criteria, and ranking all candidates against each other.
  1. Presentation. We are also happy to present our findings verbally if required. This generates open discussion, particularly with Boards and other stakeholders, and allow all to explore job, skill, capability and competency specific issues.
  1. Final Conclusion/Decision. Is made by our client and other stakeholders. InterSearch to assist/advise if required.
  1. Additional Support. InterSearch will provide whatever assistance is required in this latter stage of the selection process. This may include personal feedback to candidates, professional/respectful rejection for those not selected, more detailed feedback to internal candidates (if any), coordinating final client interviews, organizing interview logistics such as flights and hotels, reference checking, assistance with negotiation of offer etc

Benefits of this Approach

The benefits of this approach are:

1)      It is consistent and impartial. All candidates will feel that they have been treated fairly and been given a good chance to present themselves.

2)      It is totally confidential.

3)      No-one within our client organisation or outside can be accused of favouring a candidate for personal or other reasons.

4)      The process provides a well-documented audit trail.

5)      InterSearch is a very experienced search firm with more than 25 years in international executive search, including 18 years within the Middle East, and with excellent experience and judgement. Our assessment will add value to the selection process and will help ensure that the best candidate is appointed.

6)      Significantly less expensive than a full executive search.


Executive Search – Why does it continue to be relevant?

– By Michel Corrado, Senior Consultant – InterSearch Middle East

In this digital age of apps and technology career websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster, the big question is would executive search continue to be as it was or would it even be existent in the next few years?

Technology cannot replace professional relationships or trust. The evolution of technology enabled websites has been a supporting factor for the whole executive search industry but the relevance of people to people contact would continue to remain the same.

executive search

Several candidates would testify that they are more comfortable being contacted by a professional search firm than a competitor whose intentions might be hard to gauge. The level of information provided to a trusted consultant is much more than that revealed to an in-house recruiter.

Executive search is the most effective approach when:

  • the number of suitable candidates is limited
  • a specific nationality is required
  • the position is of such importance that the best available talent/leader is required
  • the client wants to search across several countries
  • confidentiality and a thorough professional approach are essential and if the position is hard to fill.

Not all the professionals have a LinkedIn/Xing/Viadeo profile. It’s not possible to do a complete mapping of the market if you scan just the social media websites and career portals. Often there could be very little information on a person’s public profile. Executive Search methodology ensures all potential candidates in all relevant companies and industries are contacted to be briefed about the role. This raises the overall quality of candidate pool by a significant percentage.

My manager used to present this situation with this example:

If you had the chance to be a speaker in any meeting you could ask to the audience who is actively looking for a new job. Roughly 10% would raise their hands. Then you can ask who would consider a job opportunity that comes through a head hunter in confidential way; majority of the audience would raise their hands!

Performing search in-house is time consuming. In most cases, specific niche skills to successfully manage the search might be lacking. When you do the math, entrusting specialist consultants would ensure you a much quicker turnaround of the entire hiring process.

Most senior professionals hesitate from showcasing anywhere in the public that they are open to a new role. Also a majority of the senior roles goes unadvertised. The only way to tap them – the time tested search way!

The research teams continuously engage on conversation with all the potential candidates at the right level and constantly benchmarks between the top candidates to eventually pin on the best 3 -5 candidates to be presented to the client. Their deep understanding of the industry and tracking of people movement comes very handy in advising you to the right candidate.

Very rarely does a candidate end up in the final shortlist without some form of informal feedback or reference check from the Consultant. This approach is beneficial if you are looking to hire the best available person for the job within your budget.

If you wish to hire a critical new position or would like to hire for a replacement position, the search approach helps you confidentially approach the market attracting the best possible ones.

Executive Search Consultants offer much more than recruitment services. They are subject matter experts in your industry as they are able to gauge the market by having conversation with a multitude of relevant industry professionals. They can offer you valuable advice that perhaps no one else can offer.

Middle East Momentum

-By Samantha Robinson, General Manager – InterSearch Middle East

Seems it continues to be an “interesting year” with persistent vulnerability across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.  I have spoken previously about the variety of pessimistic, optimistic and realistic views are constantly being communicated amongst the senior executive & economist community.

We carry on talking about the effects of declining oil prices, weak global economies and rising geopolitical risks across the Middle East.  Statistics show that MENA’s economy grew 2.6% annually in 2015, compared to the 2.9% growth achieved in 2014.

Middle east mixed bag

It seems the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) strategy to keep oil prices low to retain market share backfired.  A variety of corporations are certainly feeling the pain of the subdued economies globally and regionally; people are still being let go across a variety of industries; mainly focused in Energy, Financial and Construction sectors.

The recent report across the GCC revealed Saudi Arabia tops the list in terms of the number of private sector firms planning to implement redundancies this year, at 14%.  Second is Oman, where 10% of companies intend to trim their workforce, followed by the UAE 9% and Qatar 8%.  For example, Atkins cut 100 jobs from the property and infrastructure teams.  Financial recruiters in the GCC region suggest 1,500 bankers have lost their jobs from both international (Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC & Barclays) and regional banks (First Gulf Bank, Emirates NBD & RAKBANK).

It is estimated that since the collapse of the oil price last year, approximately $200bn of energy projects have been eliminated or delayed globally and oil-and-gas job cuts range between 70,000 and 100,000.  Although Shell confirmed 10,000 job-cuts globally with an 87% plunge in annual net profits; the Middle East was mostly unaffected due to robust regional investment in the energy sector here.

So is this a short-term “right sizing” where corporations are letting go of poor performers and trimming the fat?  Do the mid-term prospects look positive?  Economic indicators continue to show growth in 2016 and especially a stronger positive outlook for 2017.  Forecasts suggest real GDP in the MENA region to grow close to 4% in 2017 and 2018.  Still low by historical standards but an improvement.

The reality is that MENA is currently experiencing some of the weakest growth since the height of the financial crisis in 2009. But for 2017, growth in the region is expected to accelerate.  Qatar’s relatively diversified economy is expected to be the best performer in 2016, followed by Iran, which is benefiting from its reintegration into the global economy. At the other end of the spectrum, Yemen and Saudi Arabia will be the worst performers, followed by Lebanon.

Optimism highlights that oil prices have risen more than 85% since January.  UAE Minister of Energy Suhail Al Mazroui recently said at an OPEC meeting in Vienna that he was happy with the oil market performance; “We are optimistic. We are seeing that the market is correcting upward”.  Brent crude futures is currently trading at $49.29 per barrel, down 60 cents, or 1.2%, from their last settlement.  US crude futures down 51 cents, or 1.04%, at $48.59 a barrel.

The continuation of sluggish growth will hurt the overall unemployment rate, now standing at 12%, and impact household earnings in the region. The implications of fiscal consolidation measures and reduced budget balances have an immediate impact on the employment, financial and business landscape.  Governments are using their reserves to maintain critical investments, with global economies stabilizing in recent weeks mainly due to improved economic conditions in China and increased oil price.

Business leaders are more confident about the region’s prospects of surviving a long period of low oil prices, while the overall sentiment is clearly showing cautious optimism.  The percentage of people who disagree about the MENA region’s capability to weather the storm reflects the realism that the Middle East still has a tough time ahead.

“Life after Oil” – a look through Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

By Nicholas Harvey, Regional Director – Middle East and Africa, InterSearch

Regional news earlier this week centred on the approval by the Saudi cabinet of Kingdom’s Vision 2030 that outlies a number of reforms chiefly aimed at tackling the country’s reliance on Oil.

The Vision 2030 was delivered by the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (below), who has seen a meteoric growth from Special Adviser and Regional Governor through the ranks to that of the country’s de facto leader.  Inspired by a McKinsey blueprint “Beyond Oil”, the vision outlines a number of pledges to restructure the economy with the result (it has been claimed) that “The Kingdom can live in 2020 without any dependence on oil….”.

The most eye-catching of the reforms is to establish a huge Sovereign Wealth Fund (Public Investment Fund) through the part-privatisation of ARAMCO (as well as other publically owned assets) and spending curbs indicative of Margaret Thatcher’s UK policies in the 1980s.  We look at this and some of the highlights of the 2030 Vision and share some of the views of both the sceptics and the supporters of this bold move.

1On the whole, Vision 2030 has received acclamation from political and economic leaders for over-due economic and social reforms.  Many of these individuals will not however, share the same socio-political issues that confront the leaders in the Kingdom.  One of the most controversial highlights of the report will be that of subsidy restructures and spending cuts.  To stave off dissent (which much of the region witnessed in the Arab Spring) the Kingdom has historically developed a regime of government handouts in the shape or form of subsidies on such as fuel, electricity and water.  Dismantling this cradle-to-the-grave welfare system by moving toward a market pricing for these utilities will not be without challenges; especially, in Saudi Arabia where the Powers-that-be do not share the same levels of popularity enjoyed by leaders in other Gulf countries.

Refreshingly, on reading through the text of the Vision 2030 was the openness to past oversights and on former policies that have not realised their potential.  For example the development of the Economic Cities where (in some cases) work has halted and investment targets have not been met.  One of the biggest white elephants to date has been the multi-billion dollar King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh, a futuristic city of skyscrapers designed by award-winning architects that stands largely empty.  To spur the development, it states in the report that the Public Investment Fund (soon to be the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund) will make KAFD its headquarters providing a much needed Anchor tenant (similar to the move made by QP “buying” Barwa Financial District, Doha in 2011).  To further encourage investment, incentives were outlined (though somewhat vaguely) on visa allocation and economic zone benefits.

For months now, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (colloquially known as MbS) has been hinting at a partial IPO for ARAMCO, the world’s largest oil company, and it would appear that this privatisation will be major donor toward the (claimed figure of) $2 Trillion investment fund.  Questions will be raised on whether the timing for this sell-off will maximise yields and how exactly (bar the ARAMCO deal) this trillion dollar figure will come from.  Moreover, there will be challenges in having to open the books (as will be required for any public listing) in a nation that is inherently secretive in its financial affairs.  The move toward transparency coupled with further pledges for a zero-tolerance attitude toward corruption is very much a positive and will be deemed as a step in the right direction by many of the Kingdom’s trading partners.

If the ARAMCO IPO is a success, the Government may well be tempted to look into further opportunities with some of the nations’ other nationalised or government owned assets and organisations.  It was earlier mentioned that Vision 2030 drew some parallels with Thatcher’s Conservative Government policies in the 1980’s.  Interestingly, during this period of privatisation in the UK, most people will remember the sexier, more glamourous self-offs such as British Airways, British Telecom (BT) and Rolls Royce, it was however, the Right To Buy policy of giving council-house tenants the opportunity to buy their own homes, that netted the most money for the treasury, with over 1.5million homes eventually bought.  Vision 2030 also states that “Where it exists in strategic locations, we will also capitalize on the government’s reserves of real estate.”

Further incentives and commitments are highlighted to;

  • Drive SME growth (currently, just 20% of GDP come from this sector – compared with nearly 50% in Dubai)
  • Localize over 50% of military spending by 2030 (currently, Saudi Arabia is the 3rd largest military spender, but only 2% of this spending is within the Kingdom)
  • Maximise the countries mineral exploration potential
  • Invest in Tourism (both pilgrimage and non-pilgrimage). Anyone in attendance at this year’s Arabian Travel Market can vouch that the marketing of this has at least started!
  • Invest and maximise the country’s geographical advantageous position as a potential hub connecting Africa, Asia and Europe. Here they face stiff competition from countries like the UAE, Kuwait and Oman that have been investing heavily in logistics, transport and re-export for many years.

For a country and its people’s wealth that has been so dependent on oil for over half a century, ‘breaking the addiction’ will be no mean feat.   Sceptics will highlight that similar transition plans have been made in the past that have come to little and previous attempts fizzled out as soon as the oil price recovered.  Other economists state the price fall in this case is structural, not cyclical, brought on by the growth in renewable energy, shale production and a desire to meet hydrocarbon emission targets.  Creating a ‘Norwegian-style’ Oil or Sovereign Wealth Fund is a positive move to secure the country’s financial future and privatisation can bring other economic benefits and efficiencies.

But for the country to make real forward movement, industries and SMEs need to be developed that will the pull the country away from its history of ‘gift-giving’ and lifelong welfare support.  Herein lies the biggest challenge and few countries – Malaysia being one of the few exceptions – have been able to escape the ‘resource curse’.  Today Saudi Arabia offers a business environment in areas such as finance, logistics and manufacturing that is severely tough.  The Kingdom will have to construct an attractive place to do business when facing competition from nations such as the UAE which have far simpler alternatives.

So a bold move by the young Prince who faces further challenges with its military involvement in Yemen and the Middle East’s version of the Cold War with its stand-off with arch-rival Iran.  However, with no obvious oil-price increase on the horizon and Saudi’s cash reserves burning faster than expected, the Kingdom may have no choice but to change.



Panel Interviews – Do’s and Don’ts

Panel Interview

By Sami Al Barwani, Consultant – InterSearch Oman

Panel interviews are becoming much more popular as a more time-efficient process to identify the next star employee by involving a number of key decision makers from different parts of the organisation that can interview the candidate at the same time.

This interview approach can be an effective tool to assess how well the candidate can communicate and interact with multiple stakeholders, evaluate their ability to work well under pressure and the ultimate aim is to give the potential employer deeper insight into a candidate’s suitability for a specific role and whether they are a good fit for the company.

But if the panel interview process is not done in the right way, it could be a disaster waiting to happen…for both the corporation and the candidate

In preparing for a panel interview, there are several points the employer should keep in mind beyond the normal preparation for a one-on-one interview.

  • Each member of the panel needs to have a clear understanding about the key requirements in terms of skill set and experience pertaining to the actual role.
  • Each member of the panel needs to be well prepared with relevant and structured questions to ask each candidate.
  • A facilitator should be assigned in order to welcome the candidate and provide an introductory summary of the business, explain the process, invite questions and try to avoid making long speeches. InterSearch is happy to play the facilitator role if requested.
  • The panel members should aim to make the candidate feel comfortable by encouraging the individual to start talking early.
  • The panel members should start warming up the candidate with easy questions to answer.
  • The panel members should ask open questions and encourage detailed responses from the potential candidate.
  • Don’t play games such as trick questions or creating situations to deliberately put the candidates under pressure to see how they react. Treat each candidate with utmost respect, as they are treating you.
  • If you have an issue or a doubt then tell the candidate honestly and see what is his/her response to that.
  • At the end of the interview the panel members should give the candidate a chance to ask questions about the position or the business.
  • The panel members should explain to the candidate the next steps and when she /he will be likely to get feedback.
  • Leave time at the end of each interview to discuss the candidate. It can be difficult to remember each individual candidate if you leave all discussion to the end of the day.
  • At the end of all interviews try to sum up your collective feedback as a panel and discuss next steps while the candidates are fresh in your mind.

What about for the potential candidate…a panel interview can be intimidating! Best you know what to expect and be prepared to handle the interview in a professional and winning way. Here are some useful tops to be successful in panel interviews:

  • Research the panel of judges – getting to know the panel before your interview you give you some hints about the kind of questions you will receive.
  • Be calm in the storm – the key to success is connecting with the different personalities at the panel interview. Remember that each panel may have different kinds of attitudes and energy. Different personalities and body languages permeate a panel interview. Interviewers remember the quality of a grounded candidate that remains calm in what can seem like an aggressive inquisition.
  • Have a question to ask each interviewer at the end – the best panel-interview preparation includes a thought process on the kinds of questions that the candidate should ask
  • Tell them a story – hiring managers want to see how you think not what you have done. Make sure you develop stories that follow a Situation, Task, Action and Response/Achievement (STAR) pattern throughout your panel interview.
  • Reiterate how your skills fit into the job description – focus on your strengths in relation to the role and communicate them well when answering questions
  • Remember, it’s a competition – engage even the silent ones! Don’t play to any one person on the panel. It’s sometimes the quiet note-takers that have high influence. Use silence. Sometimes looking down and taking a moment to answer the question is the best strategy.



Behavior-based Structured Interviewing 101

By Harris Karaolides, Principal Consultant – InterSearch Middle East


The success of any organization depends on its people, so you better be sure that you make the right people choices! One weapon in your arsenal towards that goal is the structured form of interview known as behavior-based interviewing.

My experience is that many managers sort of wing it and improvise a lot when interviewing candidates, basically depending on instinct and gut feeling to make a selection. But the problem is that, this way, the manager ends up picking not the most suitable person for the job but the one who most closely resembles the manager himself, so he ends up with a team staffed with people who all think and act alike. Obviously this is not always desirable. Moreover, hiring this way also poses a danger of discrimination against women, older candidates, certain nationalities or any other group depending on the interviewer’s biases.

It is much preferable to have a more structured interviewing style, with questions aiming to ascertain whether the candidate can overcome specific challenges they will be facing in the vacancy you are hiring for. So the first step would be to itemize the specific attitudes and behaviors the vacancy’s tasks demand; in other words you need a very precise job description and not just a list of arbitrary criteria (e.g. minimum 3 years of experience in a similar position, MBA degree etc.). The next step would be to formulate the questions on which the interview will be based, and these questions must be directly related to crucial success factors for the specific vacancy. Make sure to ask all candidates the same questions, there is no other way to compare their answers.

I will offer you a few examples that illustrate this approach. To make the examples less generic, and offer a more specific picture when required, let’s assume you are interviewing a candidate for an HR Generalist role. You can modify them accordingly for a position in sales, marketing, finance etc. and depending on the job’s actual requirements.

“Describe one occasion when you developed and implemented a talent development project that added value to the company. Where did the idea come from? Walk me through the stages of the conception and the carrying out of the project.”

This question aims to explore whether the candidate can think “outside the box”, has a holistic comprehension of a problem’s parameters and is able to come up with innovative solutions.

“What was the most difficult position you ever had to fill as a recruiter? How did you develop your candidate pool? How did you ‘sell’ the position to the candidates you liked?”

Posting an online advertisement and then going through hundreds of incoming CVs just doesn’t work for those hard-to-fill positions. As a rule the best candidates are not even looking at ads, are not thinking of changing jobs, or won’t reply to a direct competitor’s ad because after all this is a small world. With this question you want to find out if your candidate is a strong networker, if he is familiar with all the available recruitment tools and solutions and has the judgment skills to assess which ones to utilize depending on the situation. Also, you want to see if the candidate is good at selling ideas, something that will be very useful when supporting demanding line managers within your organization.

“Give me examples of KPI metrics and assessment tools you developed. How did these tools help a line manager improve operations in their department?” 

Unfortunately some folks take up a career in HR for the wrong reasons: Because they are afraid to go into sales where results and individual contribution are more clearly measurable, because they dislike numbers etc. Being a “people’s person”, “loving communication” and other pink and fluffy reasons to be in HR are good and fine but if an HR professional doesn’t also have hard business skills and is not bottom-line oriented, he will never be more than an administrator. This question aims to explore whether the candidate understands numbers, can be a true business partner and can be proactive.

Questions like the above will almost always demand a follow-up from your side so be prepared to dig deeper! It goes without saying that before you even reach the stage of asking such questions that aim to separate the stars from the simply adequate, you must have first ascertained that the candidate has the basic technical skills for the role. During the interview you must also make sure to destroy any attempt by the candidate to reply with generalizations – go for the specifics. Good luck!