Table of Contents
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Table of Contents
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.
Activities to Use in Group Interviews
Many times the actions of an interviewee say a lot more about them than their words. While questions are a great way to get to know your candidates and their abilities, conducting group activities in the interview process allows you to see how well individuals can collaborate and work in real-life situations. You can choose different activities from the list below to match the needs of the job description as well as the characteristics of your company’s culture.
Role Play Scenarios
In this activity, the interviewer(s) present the candidates with a particular situation that they would come across on the job. This can include dealing with a customer, managing a team, giving pitches/presentations, etc.
Though this activity has a bit of an infamous reputation (and might bring up memories of Jim and Dwight from The Office), observing how the candidates approach the role play and how seriously they take it can be important factors in the decision process.
How to prepare
- Create documents with different, detailed scenarios and tasks for the candidates.
- Tip: Tailor these scenarios to the job requirements. For example, if you’re hiring for a manager position, choose a situation in which the candidate will need to lead and collaborate with a team.
- Train the interviewer(s) on how to conduct the role play.
- Prepare them for different routes the candidate could take in the situation and how they can respond.
- Point out any specific traits/qualities they should look out for during the exercise.
- Allows you to see how the candidates perform under pressure
- Allows you to look for leadership qualities and see who’s a team player
- Gives you the opportunity to see the candidates’ problem-solving skills
Unlike role play scenarios, practical tasks don’t necessarily need to be related to the job. These can be activities such as asking teams to use blocks or other items to build the highest tower possible or make the most structurally sound building utilizing only spaghetti sticks and marshmallows.
How to prepare
- Divide the candidates into small groups and have them work simultaneously
- Make sure to set a reasonable time limit for efficiency—the focus is more on their process rather than their result
- The team should only be allowed to consult with each other (no questions or conversing with other groups allowed)
- Gather all materials needed and make sure there are enough for the teams
- Benefits for this activity are very similar to those from the role play scenario activity above. However, taking a task out of context of the job can yield different results and observations about the candidates.
- As the groups are working simultaneously, you can observe who is truly working only within their group versus those that are trying to cheat or steal ideas.
If you’re recruiting for a job position that is particularly creative, more out-of-the-box activities can help pinpoint those innovative and imaginative candidates. These can include brain teasers, riddles, and even improvisational games.
How to prepare
- Brain teasers and riddles should be solved in teams (which you can decide based on the size of the group and type of prompt).
- In this way, you can observe collaboration skills as well as personality fit.
- If there are multiple teams, they should not be able to observe others’ process before their turn.
- Set a reasonable time limit for efficiency.
- Ideas for improvisational games include:
- Making a mock slideshow presentation utilizing only a title and pictures and asking the candidate to create a story out of it (Each new slide keeps them on their toes!)
- Giving each candidate a different, random item and asking them to convincingly “sell” it to the group
- Lets you observe how candidates approach problems (Do they have a different thought process that would be useful to the company/team they would be working with?)
- Exposes how candidates think on their feet
- Allows you to see how willing candidates are to jump into things with full commitment and confidence (Do they maintain a positive attitude throughout the activities? Or do they exhibit more negative, defeated behavior?)
Find the Best Candidates by Doing Group Interviews Right
The interview process can be long and tiring, and group interviews can be a dreaded part of the process for many candidates. However, you can help make sure the process is seamless and enjoyable. By specifically planning and tailoring group interviews to your company’s needs, you are very likely to find excellent, lasting candidates for the positions you need to fill.
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Nick is a certified HR professional holding an SPHR and SHRM-CP. Nick has built HR teams from the ground up as well as worked for big corporations. Nick enjoys consulting and training those who are just getting started in HR. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family.