Group interviews can be huge time-savers. Instead of spending 10 hours interviewing 10 candidates individually, you could spend two hours interviewing them in a group.
But, like any interview format, group interviews have drawbacks and aren’t well-suited for all roles. How can you use group interviews effectively?
Here’s a guide and tips on how to conduct a group interview:
When are group interviews appropriate?
Conducting group interviews makes sense when you:
- Aim to fill a role within a specific time frame (e.g. seasonal hiring).
- Are hiring more than one person for the same position (e.g. salespeople).
- Want to screen a large number of equally skilled applicants (e.g. recent graduates).
- Are hiring for a position where teamwork, communication and handling stress are the most important requirements for the role (e.g. customer support).
What are group interview limitations?
Conducting group interviews can come with limitations:
- Building rapport with individual candidates can be more challenging in a group setting.
- Personality may be unfairly weighted in group interviews: extroverted candidates could overshadow more talented, introverted ones.
- Senior-level, experienced candidates might view group interviews as demeaning. Michelle Gamble Risley, CEO of publishing company 3L Publishing, participated in a group interview, and shared her thoughts about her experience in a 2011 Fortune article:
“It was just shocking and demoralizing. I felt I was at an executive level and I shouldn’t be put into a cattle call. If they had warned me in advance, I would not have even shown up.”
- Group interviews are often used to gauge teamwork skills, but efficient teams aren’t build in a day. Candidates who are team players may not feel comfortable working with strangers, let alone their competition.
Here’s how you can mitigate the limitations of group interviews:
- Use group interviews when they make sense. Group interviews might make candidates uncomfortable and contribute to an unpleasant candidate experience. Also, while you can save time by interviewing multiple candidates at once, interviewers still need to dedicate time and effort preparing group discussion topics and activities.
- Train interviewers. Training can reduce biases and help recruiters and interviewers build rapport with candidates in groups. You can try professional training firms like InterviewEdge and Select International. Or you can conduct mock interviews with hiring teams and discuss their approach.
- Choose the right questions. Prioritize questions that require unique answers, so candidates don’t influence each other’s answers. Those questions can include, “Why do think you’re right for the job?” “What’s a recent project you’re proud of?” “How did you contribute to your team in your latest project?”
- Give candidates advance notice of your group interview. Some may choose not to participate and you’ll give others time to prep for a different interview format. Also, let them know how much time they should expect to set aside for the interview.
How do you prepare to conduct a group interview?
Plan the process
You can use these methods to assess candidate skills:
- Ask candidates structured interview questions to gauge their preparedness, public speaking and concision. Addressing each candidate separately with an introductory question is a good way to open group interviews and get to know individual candidates.
- Initiate a group discussion among candidates to gauge their confidence, how they construct their arguments and whether they’re good listeners. Pose a dilemma and ask the group how to solve it. Observe how each candidate solves the problem and analyze their responses to other candidates’ suggestions.
- Assign candidates a team project to assess teamwork, leadership and problem-solving skills. Group interview activities can involve job-related projects (e.g. sales presentations) or role playing. For example, you could give candidates a LEGO project and ask them to build a tower with as few bricks as possible. The way they work together is more important than the project’s end result.
Group interviews make it easier for you to rule out:
- Rude candidates who constantly interrupt and talk over others.
- Aggressive candidates who disrespect others’ opinions.
- Bored candidates who check their phones or yawn.
Prepare your interviewers
It’s best to have more than one interviewer in group interviews, as you’ll have to observe multiple candidates at once. HR staff can collaborate with hiring managers and their team members to conduct a group interview.
Before the group interview, arrange a meeting with all your interviewers. Make sure everyone understands the process and goals. Assign roles if needed. For example, you may want one interviewer to be a silent observer while another could ask interview questions. It’d be also useful for interviewers to discuss what questions they’ll include on their scorecards and how they’ll rate responses.
Deliver an opening message
A strong opening in a group interview can go a long way. Here’s how to effectively open a group interview:
- Introduce your team of interviewers.
- Congratulate candidates for passing through your resume screening phase. Remind them that everyone in this room is qualified for the job.
- Tell candidates how long you expect the interview to last and brief them on the process.
- Give a short presentation on your company values. You can also talk about the position’s details, like working hours, salary, benefits and more.
How do you close a group interview?
Give candidates the opportunity to ask questions. Dedicate time to make sure everyone has their questions answered at the end of the interview. Remember to thank everyone for their time and let them know when to expect updates. Close on a pleasant note by wishing them all well. Following up as soon as possible with individual feedback for each candidate is good practice.