Allan Ruddock has been a panel chair for the JAC since 2008. He is professionally qualified and has over 20 years’ experience in HR and recruitment in the civil service.  

All in the same boat

“In my 7 years as a panel chair I’ve found that it doesn’t matter who is sitting on the candidate’s side of the table, how senior, how experienced, or clever they are, they are nervous and find the interview process difficult. Everyone does. However, those who have prepared clearly find it easier.

“Candidates who haven’t understood the process and didn’t do any preparation really struggle. I’m sure they have loads of good examples they just don’t have them at their fingertips because they haven’t done the work in advance of interview. But I do think that the message is finally getting through that you need to do a good self-assessment, give good examples and prepare for the interview process.”

Natural behaviours to the fore

“I think the role play is a very powerful recruitment tool because it puts the candidate into a very realistic situation. With good actors, candidates get caught up in the situation and it ceases to be a role play and becomes a court room so they begin to act like a judge or tribunal member. I believe that as people become caught up, their natural behaviours come out. That is what we want to see. It’s quite enlightening what we find out. Natural behaviours almost inevitably come to the fore.

“The actors are not in any way involved in decision making but they do take it their role very seriously.  They are very professional. Sometimes they have to improvise, if the candidate goes off-piste then they help to get the role play back on track so we cover what we need to.”

A professional panel

“As chair the majority of my panel members are like-minded which makes it easy. But sometimes you do get a member who strongly disagrees. I like to have these discussions because sometimes you can miss something. This is why having a panel is so important. There is often a very detailed discussion especially when one of the candidates is borderline. It can be difficult but everyone is professional and we use the evidence. It’s not personal it’s a business decision and as chair you have the casting vote.

“For every selection exercise we talk about unconscious bias. We are constantly checking ourselves and each other. We must ensure we don’t judge anyone on their background or diversity. It’s a discipline. It’s crucially important to candidates that we use only the evidence put before us.

“What reassures me is that everybody: the JAC staff, the front of house team, the panel – everybody takes the process very seriously. No candidates can say they’ve had an unfair deal. They have been given a good opportunity to tell us why they are suitable and have been considered honestly and fully.

“No recruitment system is perfect but having been involved in a number of them I believe this is a robust, detailed, professional system.”