Conducting a Group Interview? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

By Robert Half on January 26, 2015 at 7:00pm

In this competitive job market, hiring managers are likely to receive resumes from a many great candidates. And when you’ve got a desk full of stellar application packets, it can be difficult to narrow your selection down to the top 10 applicants, much less determine which candidate you’ll hire. A group interview can help you make your decision more quickly.

A group interview — sometimes called a mass interview — offers the opportunity to see how a candidate acts outside of the formal job interview setting. As you’ll be interviewing multiple applicants at once and asking them to work with one another in group exercises, you stand a better chance of seeing who functions best as a part of a team and might be a good fit within the corporate culture. In addition, group interviews save you time and money.

Three questions you need to ask before arranging a group interview are Why, When and How.

Why have a group interview?

Candidates who are sitting across from your desk for a one-on-one conversation are going to behave differently than they would with peers or competitors. A mass interview allows you to assign tasks to the group and observe candidates’ soft skills in action.  

  • Evaluate communication skills — Can they interact with the group easily or do they find it taxing? Do they ask questions if they don’t understand something? Do they ask for help from their co-interviewees? Are they comfortable answering interview questions in front of others, or do they become wallpaper?
  • Spot leadership tendencies — Is there one candidate who takes the reins and delegates tasks? Does that person also motivate the group and offer “management” advice as they work?
  • Watch for teamwork — Are candidates working together, or have some separated themselves from the group? Do they seem united? Does anyone seem overly competitive?

When should you do it?

A group interview should be held after careful evaluation of the candidates’ application packets. Once you have decided on your top picks, the group interview can be used for an initial round of interview questions and to observe performance in a group setting. The process helps hiring managers further narrow down the selection and decide who to bring in for one-on-one or panel interviews.

How should you conduct it?

You can take one of two tactics with the group interview:

  • Focus on the conversation — Come to the room prepared with interview questions and hypothetical scenarios for the candidates. Observe the candidates’ manner, appearance, eye contact and responses during the Q&A session. Doing so will allow you to see which candidates are quick on their feet with an answer and are able to build on another candidate’s response. Likewise, you’ll learn which applicants defer to others because they are uncomfortable speaking up in front of an audience or have less of the knowledge and expertise the job will require.
  • Add some activities — A more thorough form of this interview adds performance tasks. Create a project or two for applicants to work on together and watch how they interact. This will also give you a chance to observe their problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills.

All in all, a group interview saves you and your company time and money and gives a clearer picture of candidates’ capabilities and how they’ll interact as a part of a team. That’s not just a win-win: It’s a win-win-win.

Robert Half has been helping job seekers find great career opportunities since 1948. Enlist our recruiters to find the right job for you.

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