Why and when to conduct group interviews
Conducting group interviews is not appropriate for every situation. If you’re hiring people to fill specialized positions, or you’re not in a time-crunch situation, it’s probably best to conduct interviews one-on-one. While group interviews are expeditious, they are less personal, so they should only be used when you need to hire a relatively large number of people quickly and for similar positions.
If that’s the case, then it can be beneficial to organize a group interview – whether that involves having 3 people sitting across a table, working with 30 people broken up into small groups, or hosting a hiring event. Here are some reasons to go that route:
They save time.
Group interviews are efficient. Rather than meet one-one-one with prospective employees, a group interview allows you to get to know a large group of candidates in a short period of time.
They offer insight into who’s a teamplayer.
In a group setting, you can get a sense of how individuals interact with others, who seems more like leadership material, and who is more introverted.
They help narrow down candidates.
Being able to compare candidates to others in real time helps you to quickly size up which individuals rise to the top. Afterward, you can ask those people back for individual interviews to make sure you’re making the right choice.
3 steps to conducting an effective group interview
There are 3 main areas to think about when planning a group interview: preparation, execution, and follow-up.
Preparing for the interview
The more time you put in to setting up the interview, the more valuable the information you’ll glean from candidates.
- When, where, and how many. Decide when you want the interview to take place, how many candidates is appropriate, and what space will work best.
- Select the interview team and a facilitator. Choose individuals who would supervise the prospective employee or have particularly helpful experience related to the job in question. Also assign a team leader. This person will handle communication with the interview team members, facilitate the group interview, and take care of logistics.
- Inform the candidates. In addition to letting the potential new hires know when and where the interview will take place, be sure to explain that it will be a group format and what kinds of activities will take place.
- Schedule a meeting with the interview team. Team members should decide how long the interview should last, which team members will be active participants and who will only observe. All team members should sign off on the “script” to make sure planned interview questions and exercises will help them make informed decisions about who gets hired.
Conducting the interview
Here are a number of suggestions for how to conduct an effective group interview:
- Helping candidates get comfortable.
- The interview team leader should welcome the candidates into the interview space and introduce him or herself, as well as explain that they can help themselves to snacks and beverages and where the restrooms are.
- Have each member of the interview team give an introduction, so the candidates know what areas each one covers and his or her role. Explain to the candidates what the agenda will be, and depending on how many candidates are there, ask them to identify themselves.
- To get people to relax, you can ask them a fun question, such as what is their favorite movie and why.
- Asking questions.
- If the group of candidates is manageable, each interview team member should ask questions of the candidates with the team leader facilitating. The team members should take turns, keeping to the agenda, and ask questions that pertain to his or her area of expertise.
- Allow candidates to ask questions of what was just discussed before moving on to the next team member. Don’t be afraid to allow for some freeform discussion. It’s a great way to get to know which candidates are comfortable expressing opinions and ideas.
- Leave time at the end of the session for candidates to ask questions of any team member.
- Organizing small-group activities.
- If you have many candidates to interview at once, have them break into small groups for a majority of the time.
- The facilitator can explain what task each group will take on or he or she could give them a handout to work on. For example, you could ask the group to work out a solution to work-related dilemma.
- When everyone comes back together again, each group can present what they came up and perhaps take questions from the audience.
- Helping candidates get comfortable.
Soon after the interview concludes, the interview team should re-convene to share their impressions of the candidates. If team members feels they need more time with certain candidates, they can bring them back for individual interviews. After a final debrief, the interview team can decide which candidates are a fit.
It takes more time to prepare for and conduct group interviews, but if they’re well prepared, they can help companies hire a large number of qualified candidates in much less time than it would take to conduct one-on-one interviews with each one.