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Group Interview

Group interviews can make or break a candidate’s interview experience. It’s important to create a strong process and prepare an outline and question bank if you choose to include group interviews in your interview process. Let’s dive in to learn more about how to create an awesome group interview process and the best possible candidate experience.

What Is a Group Interview?

A group interview can be a very efficient way to interview multiple candidates at the same time and compare them side by side in real time. With a group interview you are taking multiple candidates and asking them the same questions to see how they respond.

Group Interview vs Panel Interview

There are some major differences between a group interview and a panel interview. In a group interview, you have multiple candidates in front of your interviewers at one time. In a panel interview, multiple people interview a single candidate at a time. Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages that we will discuss in depth.

When It Makes Sense to Hold Group Interviews

Deciding when to hold a group interview can be one of the most difficult decisions a hiring team has to make. However, if your team isn’t prepared beforehand to handle a group interview it can create a disastrous interview experience for your candidates. Let’s find out when and if it makes sense for your organization to conduct group interviews.

  • When you have multiples of the same role to fill. Group interviews can be a great way to fill many of the same roles that your company may have open at a given time. Group interviews are becoming common practice in environments such as call centers and production teams. If you know you need multiple people for the same position, group interviews can be a very efficient way to conduct interviews.
  • When you want to compare candidates side by side in real time. You have about wrapped up your interview process and have narrowed your list of top candidates down to two or three. How awesome would it be if you could see them side by side? This is another great opportunity to use a group interview scenario.
  • When you want to see how a candidate will respond in a difficult situation. Let’s face it, no one really wants to be involved in a group interview, so it will give you and your team great insight into how the candidates handle adversity and difficult situations. You will get to see the candidates interact with complete strangers who are vying for the same position. It is a great tool to separate those who are serious about the role by showing you who has done their homework on the position and company and those who are just hoping to skate by.

Disadvantages of Group Interviews

As with most things in HR, there are positives and negatives to any situation. Group interviews are no different. It can create a very positive experience for your candidates, or it can leave them with a terrible taste regarding the company. The biggest disadvantage to conducting group interviews is the candidates themselves. There will be times that candidates can get defensive about answers provided and attack the positions of other candidates. It’s imperative to prepare your interview team for situations like these to ensure that this doesn’t escalate and get out of hand.

How To Conduct a Successful Group Interview

Developing a strong strategy surrounding group interviews is the easiest way to ensure that you have a successful deployment and interview process.

Step 1: Decide if a Group Interview Makes Sense

Identify the role and determine if a group interview would help you in your hiring process. There is no need to conduct a group interview if it’s not needed. Ensure that a group interview will actually help you make a decision in your hiring process and that you aren’t conducting one merely for the sake of doing it.

Step 2: Train Your Interviewers

Train your interviewers on how to conduct a group interview. We have all been a part of interviews where the interviewer feels disengaged from the interview. This is especially common in group interviews where you have multiple candidates answering the same question and giving semi-similar responses. You need to ensure that your interviewers are engaged with each candidate and that they are asking relevant questions to the job.

You also want to make sure you are taking turns with who is answering questions first. If you consistently start with the same person it may be seen as creating an advantage to the person answering last.

Step 3: Create an Interview Question Bank.

This will ensure that your interviewers are prepared with questions beforehand and that they know who will be asking what questions. You don’t want to come up with questions in the moment, so do your homework and coordinate with your team.

Step 4: Ask Situation-Based Questions

Try to use situation-based questions in a group interview. You want to see how each person would conduct themselves in similar situations, so try to use and come up with situation-based questions that they may encounter during their daily work.

Step 5: Prepare Your Candidates.

It is important to let your candidates know that they will be part of a group interview so that they can plan accordingly. You don’t want to blindside your candidates with a random group interview they weren’t prepared for. That creates a poor candidate experience.

Questions to Ask in a Group Interview

This section specifically relates to steps 3 and 4 mentioned above. Creating a strong interview question bank ensures that the interview will flow smoothly and seamlessly.

  • Question Category #1: “Tell me about a time when…”

These types of questions will not only provide great insight into how your candidates think, they also provide a greater look into their overall experience. Expect to see the responses build off of each other as the candidates hear how their counterparts answer. Keep the situations focused on what they may encounter in their day-to-day role.

  • Question Category #2: Company culture and values-based questions

Companies that have strong culture and values will need to do their best to protect their culture and values. You will want to ensure that the candidate’s answers line up well with that culture. Some of the most effective questions are those that explicitly ask about company values, such as “These are our values. What value resonates most with you and why?”

If you build your interview questions around those two categories, you will be able to build a very successful group interview process that will create strong relationships with your candidates and their interviewers.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Group Interviews

What should I look for in candidates during a group interview?
The biggest thing to look for is how the candidates are interacting with each other. You will often see candidates start to attack each other’s positions and answers. This should be an immediate red flag. One of the other major things to watch for is candidates that have done their homework. They will have a strong understanding of the role and what the company stands for.
Who should conduct our group interviews?
It is important to include your main decision-makers in the group interviews. Have two or three interviewers available to conduct group interviews. With this number, it is easier to keep the candidates engaged and also ensure that you are receiving multiple points of reference on each of the candidates.
Nick Staley

Nick Staley

Nick is a certified HR professional holding an SPHR from HRCI. He is passionate about the employee experience and creating some of the top workplaces in Utah. He has built HR departments from the ground up as well as working for large companies. When not working, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids and flying airplanes.

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