How to Hold a Group Interview: HR Process, Activities, & Ideas
What Is a Group Interview?
Group interviews can be a daunting experience for job seekers and employers alike. A group interview is when multiple applicants for a role are invited to be interviewed in a group environment.
A group interview is sometimes mistaken for a panel interview. A panel interview is where there is more than one person responsible for the selection of the successful candidate. Using a panel of selectors in a group interview may be preferable if the number of candidates at the group interview is of a moderate to large size. The facilitator's role in a group interview is to create an environment in which the job seeker can respond naturally allowing the employer to select the candidate that best suits the position.
The recruiter should decide on the selection methods prior to placing the advertisement for the opening. These can include phone screenings, group interviews, panel interviews, aptitude tests, and one-on-one interviews. It is common to use several rounds of selection methods—using multiple will widen the success of selecting a candidate that matches the role.
If there are many applications, screening applicants over the telephone can improve the selection process. This is specially true if the role requires the use of the telephone, such as jobs in sales, reception, and call centers. The recruiter can use the telephone screening as a tool alongside the submitted resume and cover letter for short-selecting candidates and inviting them along to the group interview.
One of the major benefits of a group interview is that it saves time compared to interviewing multiple candidates one on one. Why meet with two possible candidates over a two-hour interval when you can meet twenty? A group interview allows you to widen the initial pool of candidates.
It also allows you to compare and evaluate candidates side by side and is an ideal selection tool for roles that involve teamwork. The group environment will provide the candidates with a chance to interact with one another, so that their personalities, competitiveness, outspokenness, leadership qualities, communication skills, and knowledge of the role and the employer can be evaluated.
Once the vacancy has been recognized, choose a location, date, and time for the group interview. Plan to convene in a place where there will be little interruption. Place the advertisement for the position a couple of weeks in advance of the date. Make sure to include the date of the group interview. This ensures applicants who read the advertisement are aware of the group interview process and the date of the interview when they submit their applications.
The first step in the selection process is to screen the candidates based on their applications. As previously mentioned, telephone screening can help tremendously. If you have a large number of candidates, you won't want to screen every person. Assess the applicants based on the selection criteria and telephone screen those that you select as a good fit from their resume and cover letter. During the call, you can ask questions about possible gaps in their employment history, inquire as to their reasons for leaving previous positions, and provide them with additional information about the role such as expectations and earning capacity. You may want to include a rating criteria with your screening to help determine which candidates will receive an invitation to the group interview.
Leading up to the group interview, you will need to create an agenda. What you include in your agenda will depend on the resources you have available. When applicants arrive, you may want them to complete an application form. The application form may include a few questions that you haven't previously asked or that you wish to confirm now that they are at the interview, such as their availability for the role. Other items on the agenda might include:
- A brief welcome with a run-through the agenda.
- "Who am I?" This gives each candidate an opportunity to introduce themselves to the selectors. You can also ask each candidate to answer a specific question that will provide the selectors with insightful information to help with the elimination process.
- An overview of the expectations of the role. If you have an employee who currently fills this position, invite them to participate in the interview process. They can answer questions that the group may have about the role and assist in the selection of their new team member.
- At least two group activities that are both varied and complimentary. The group activities should be structured with the aim of encouraging candidates to express themselves naturally and allow selectors to review each candidate against the values and qualities that the employer desires in an employee. The activities should also be designed to assist selectors to evaluate the skill level and knowledge of the candidates.
- A tour of the work environment. This is particularly valuable if the work environment includes the consumer product such as an entertainment venue or health club, construction site, or a factory. An informal tour conducted towards the end of the group interview and facilitated by the selectors can provide valuable information about a candidate.
- Written multiple choice testing such as literacy, numeracy, job knowledge, situational and personality tests. These tests can also be conducted at a different step of the interview process.
- A conclusion including a summary of the recruitment process and when candidates can expect to hear from you next.
The day before the group interview, either call or SMS group participants to confirm their attendance. Prepare easy-to-read name badges and print off the participant's applications and any prior interview results, such as the telephone screening answers and ratings.
Conducting the Group Interview
The Role of the Facilitator
The role of the facilitator at a group interview is to ensure candidates have an equal opportunity to provide the selectors with the confidence that they could successfully perform the required role. The facilitator's role should be to coordinate the group interview activities with the aim of producing the desired qualities and giving candidates the opportunity to show that they have the skills and knowledge to be successful in the role.
It is not always necessary for the facilitator to make candidates feel comfortable, although this can help to foster natural and sincere responses to questions and activities. The facilitator needs to keep the interview flowing from one activity to another and stay on schedule. Explaining the purpose of each activity and providing clear instructions of what is required from each person can reduce repetitive questions.
The selectors at a group interview should come from within the business. Selectors do not necessarily have to be line managers or directors—they can also be team members. Selectors should be provided with a briefing about the group interview before it commences and with any material that can assist them in recording their thoughts about the candidates throughout the interview. It's also helpful to go over company values and the criteria for the role to help them make their decisions. Participation should be encouraged, and each selector should introduce themselves at the start of the session.
Provide candidates with a start time and ask them to complete an application form upon arrival. Give each person a name badge to wear, so that facilitators can easily address candidates by name. At the start of the interview, collect the completed application forms and any other material the candidates may want to provide, such as updated resumes, certificates, or lists of referees. If the interview process is going to be a few hours, you may want to provide candidates with a small break and opportunity to refresh.
First impressions of a candidate should not be forgotten. If you have a receptionist that will meet and greet candidates, ask about his or her opinion of the applicants to find out which ones made an impression and why.
Provide all the applicants with the opportunity to show their knowledge about the role and their skillsets. You can find out a lot about applicants by engaging them in conversation about their work and life experiences.
During the interview, encourage candidates to ask questions about the role. This is a good opportunity for selectors (especially team members) to participate. The most vocal candidate who attempts to dominate the group interview is not necessarily the best candidates for the position. Consider the company values and the essential criteria when making a short selection.
Next Steps for Selecting Your Employee
Immediately after the group interview, gather the selectors together to discuss each of the candidates, make a selection (if there were any impressive candidates), and a debrief about the interview. The facilitator should provide selectors with the opportunity to peruse applications and individual results in the group activities. Share concerns and praise about candidates and provide invaluable feedback about the group interview process.
Following the group interview, you might decide to short select which candidates will continue through to the next stage of the selection process. Next steps could include:
- Psychometric testing
- One-on-one interviews
- Panel interviews
- In-basket testing
- Aptitude tests
- Reference checking.
Contact all candidates to thank them for their time and patience during the selection process. Group interviews can be stressful and may discourage candidates from continuing with the process because it means going outside of their comfort zone. Candidates should always be thanked for their effort in participating in a group interview.