How to Conduct a Group Interview to Find the Best New Hires

 

If you need to hire lots of employees quickly, conducting a group interview could be an effective hiring strategy. It saves time compared to interviewing each candidate separately.

 

But it’s important to think this through. Careful preparation for conducting group interviews is critical to gain insight into candidates’ capabilities, leave a good impression with interviewees and hire the right employees.

 

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What is a group interview?

In this interviewing method, you invite multiple candidates to an interview at once to discuss the available position as a group. 

 

How do group interviews work?

They can include a traditional question-and-answer session, with each candidate getting a chance to respond. Some companies also incorporate a group activity that requires participants to solve a problem, come up with an idea or handle other tasks that help evaluate their qualifications.

 

Benefits of conducting group interviews

Conducting group interviews can have major benefits when used in the right circumstances. If those benefits align with your needs, group interviews could be the right choice. Here are some reasons to go that route:

 

  • Save time: Group interviews are efficient. Rather than meeting one-on-one with prospective employees, a group interview allows you to evaluate a large group of candidates in a short period.
  • Gain insight on teamwork: When you gather candidates 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.
  • Narrow down the number of candidates: Being able to compare candidates to others in real time helps you quickly size up which individuals rise to the top. Afterward, you can invite those people back for individual interviews to make sure you’re making the right choice.
  • Test skills: Group interviews let you see each candidate’s soft skills in action. You can see how well they interact with others, handle stress and communicate. Group activities can also let you test job-specific skills.
  • Spot potential leaders: The group interaction can allow some candidates to stand out as leaders. Even if you’re not hiring for a leadership position, it’s good to know that certain candidates might transition well to leadership positions when they become available.

Drawbacks of group interviews

Holding group interviews doesn’t always work well. Being aware of the potential drawbacks can help you decide if it’s a good fit for your hiring needs. Here are some cons of group interviews to consider:

 

  • Less personal: You don’t get the one-on-one time with candidates that you get with a traditional interview. This can make it more difficult to find out if a candidate is a good fit. 
  • Overlooked candidates: A candidate who is shy or doesn’t like speaking in front of groups might get overlooked in a group interview setting. The most dominant personalities tend to overshadow others, which can make other candidates say less or cause you to miss someone who would work well for your team.
  • No anonymity: Your interviewees don’t have any privacy when interviewing in a group setting. All other candidates can hear their answers, which can be intimidating and might cause candidates to leave out some information.
  • Candidate influences: The candidates might influence one another in their answers. Some people might go along with what everyone else says even if they have a different opinion, for example. You might not see the real candidates in that situation.

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, it’s probably best to conduct interviews one-on-one. While group interviews are expeditious, they’re less personal. Here are some situations when group interviews might work well:

 

  • Hiring a large number of people for similar positions
  • Short turn-around time for hiring
  • Lots of similar applicants where a group interview can help you narrow down the number
  • Hiring for positions where teamwork is essential

Three steps to conducting an effective group interview

There are three main areas to think about when planning a group interview: preparation, execution and follow-up.

 

Preparing for the interview

The more time you put into setting up the interview, the more valuable the information you’ll glean from candidates. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a group interview:

 

  • Determine the logistics: Decide when you want the interview to take place, how many candidates you’ll interview and what space will work best.
  • Select the interview team and a facilitator: Choose individuals who would supervise the prospective employee or have experience related to the job. Assign a team leader to handle communication with the interview team members, facilitate the group interview and manage logistics.
  • Plan questions and activities: Write the group interview questions and work out the details of the group activities well in advance. This lets you ask thoughtful questions that provide useful information and prepare materials necessary for the activities.
  • 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. This gives the candidates a chance to prepare, especially if they’ve never been in a group interview before.
  • Schedule a meeting with the interview team: Team members should decide how long the interview will 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 help them make informed decisions about who gets hired.

Conducting the interview

Here are some suggestions for how to conduct an effective group interview:

 

  • Help candidates get comfortable: The interview team leader should introduce themselves, welcome the candidates and tell them to help themselves to snacks and beverages and where the restrooms are.
  • Give introductions: Have each member of the interview team give an introduction so the candidates know what areas each covers and their role. Explain to the candidates what the agenda will be and ask them to introduce themselves.
  • Start with a fun question: To get people to relax, you can ask them a fun question, such as what is their favorite movie and why.
  • Ask 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 their area of expertise.
  • Let candidates ask questions: Allow candidates to ask questions about topics that were discussed before moving on to the next team member. Don’t be afraid to allow free-form discussion. It’s a great way to get to know which candidates are comfortable expressing opinions and ideas. Leave time at the end for candidates to ask questions of any team member.

Organizing small-group activities can also be a beneficial part of the interview process. These activities help you assess the skills of each candidate in a group setting. Here are some group interview tips for this portion interview:

 

  • Use small groups: If you have many candidates to interview at once, have them break into small groups for a majority of the time.
  • Explain the task: The facilitator can explain what task each group will do or give them a handout to complete. For example, you could ask the group to devise a solution to a work-related dilemma.
  • Do a presentation: When everyone comes back together again, each group can present what they came up with and perhaps take questions from the audience.

Interview follow-up

Soon after the interview concludes, the interview team should reconvene to share their impressions of the candidates. If team members feel they need more time with certain candidates, they can bring them back for individual second interviews. After a final debrief, the interview team can decide which candidates are a good fit. 

 

Follow up with all candidates after you decide. Extend job offers to those you want to hire and send a candidate rejection email to those who don’t make the cut.

 

FAQs about group interviews

How do you evaluate each candidate?

Using interview scoring sheets lets you evaluate and compare the candidates in a group interview. Make notes during the interview to differentiate between the candidates. Consider the answers they give, their body language, the way they interact with each other and their performance in group activities. Compare what you see to the requirements for the job to find the best fit.

 

Where should you hold group interviews?

You need a space that’s large enough to fit all interviewees comfortably. If you have a small group of candidates, you might be able to use your conference room. For larger groups, you might need to rent a space that’s big enough. If you’re having the candidates do group activities, make sure you have enough room for those breakout sessions.

 

How long do group interviews last?

Budget at least an hour for group interviews. Some can last two or three hours, depending on the number of people involved, how many questions you ask and what additional activities you do. Let the candidates know how long you think the interview will last so they have enough free time to stay.

 

How many people should be in a group interview?

The number of people you interview together is up to you, but keeping the group to 10 or less makes it more manageable. Larger groups can be difficult to track, and more candidates are likely to get overlooked. You’ll also need a larger interview space to hold everyone comfortably, and it takes more time to interview larger groups. If you want to interview more people, consider dividing the candidates into smaller groups to make the interview process more manageable.

 

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