When time is tight or you’re hiring multiple people for the same position, group interviews, where you interview more than one applicant simultaneously are the way to go. Group interviews consist of questions and experiential exercises designed to rigorously assess a candidate’s ability to be a team player, as well as other essential job skills.
But you can’t approach group interviews the same way you would normal interviews; there’s a whole different set of expectations and challenges that go with finding the best candidates from a pool of interviewees.
To that end, we’ll be going over the advantages of group interviews, the best ways to conduct them, and group interview activities that will help make your interviews more interesting and (most importantly) help you find the best candidates.
Advantages of conducting group interviews
Group interviews are ideal for any company that needs to fill many positions at once—whether that's a startup company growing exponentially or an established business opening a new division. If you have jobs to fill that require candidates to be a team player, you should definitely consider doing group interviews.
They can be a considerable time and money saver. Instead of spending 20 long hours separately interviewing 20 candidates, you can invest a few hours interviewing everyone as part of one large group.
Allowing the interviewees to interact in a group setting gives you an idea of how they work with others. It also gives you a more in-depth picture of an applicant than you would ever hope to gain in a traditional interview.
Then, you can hand-select only those candidates who possess the most exceptional teamwork and leadership skills.
How do you facilitate a group interview?
When conducting your group interviews, it’s best to have a team of interviewers. That way, you’ll be better equipped to observe everything that’s happening in the room. This is a big day for your company, and you want to make sure you’re attentive to everything that’s going on around you.
To get the most from interview day, meticulously map everything out at a meeting. Make sure that all interviewers understand what the process is. Create a well-thought-out plan and a structured schedule so the proceedings will progress as smoothly as possible.
Give some thought to the room arrangement as you think what your objectives are for the interview. For example, you could arrange all the chairs in a big circle to encourage group members to talk with each other.
Assign roles to each team member. For example, one person could be a silent observer who takes notes while another one asks questions. You might want to have some light refreshments for the participants, such as coffee, soda, juice, bagels, and donuts.
Before you start, congratulate your applicants for passing your rigorous screening phase. Introduce your team of interviewers and their positions within the company. Ask each applicant to introduce himself, including name, current employment, and academic credentials.
Brief them on the agenda, so they know exactly what they’re in for. That way, there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. You might also want to include a fun ice breaker, like having each candidate name their favorite Halloween flick. Or, if they had to eat only one food for the rest of their life, what would that be?
The next part of the process is the questions and group activity. Make sure that the interview is a balance of both. Finish the interview by allowing each participant to ask questions of you and your team. Then, thank your applicants for their time and tell them what the follow-up process will look like.
What questions should you ask during a group interview?
Even though you’ll be doing a group exercise, don’t forget to ask your participants interview questions to understand their qualifications. They should focus on the skills you want applicants to have and the valuable contributions they can make to your organization.
Here are just a few examples:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- What makes you stand out above everyone else?
- What are your motivations?
- What are your passions?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What makes you interested in the type of work we do?
- Tell us why we should hire you?
Group interview activities
Now, it’s time for your participants to participate in a group exercise. This will give you a glimpse into how your motley band of participants work together as a team, so you can see if they have the essential skills they'll need to work at your company.
The great part about the exercise is that it doesn’t have to directly relate to the job your applicants will be doing. You can either have your participants do one activity as a large group or break them into smaller groups to do separate exercises.
Here are some things you can do:
The lunch interview
If the job you’re interviewing for involves customer service, you might want to conduct your interview over lunch. That way, you’ll be able to observe your applicants’ interpersonal skills firsthand.
You'll also see what their personality is like and whether they'd be a good fit for your company. In situations like this, people often let their guard down, and you can see the real person underneath the façade. It's also perfect if you want your interview to be outside your corporate headquarters. For example, if you don't want anybody at the home office to know you're hiring for this job.
After you order your food and drinks, get to know your interviewees by asking them questions. Start out with casual ones, then ask them why they think they might be right for the position.
Notice how each interviewee acts with the others, as well as the wait staff. If you're attentive, you can pick up clues about whether the individual would be an excellent addition to your team.
The roleplay scenario
Roleplay is terrific for evaluating critical occupational skills such as communication, problem-solving, leadership, and performing under pressure. It's a great experiential exercise that allows you to see a candidate's skills in action.
To set the stage for the roleplay, come up with everyday workplace situations, and have your candidates act them out. This way, you can see if your applicant possesses the skills listed on his resume, instead of merely relying on his word.
It’s best if a member of your team acts out the role of the customer. For example, he can play an upset client, while a candidate can be the employee who will try to solve the client’s problem.
If you want, you can concoct a scenario that involves more than one interviewee. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to see which applicants are team players. Give your actors fifteen minutes or so to prepare for the role pay. After the exercise concludes, rate each interviewee on how well they did.
The industry-related case study
A case study is a scenario that could realistically happen at your company. It differs from the role play because instead of acting it out, your participants will have a lively discussion on how they would handle it.
Have everyone break up into groups. Give everyone a handout that contains all the details of the case study, and have each group discuss amongst themselves how they would solve the problem.
Give participants time to complete the interview and then go around the room and have each group talk about how they dealt with the situation. Don't focus only on the solutions, but rather how teammates collaborate towards accomplishing a common objective.
The group presentation
Another excellent group activity for any customer-facing job is having your applicants do a group pitch. This is great for occupations, like consulting, sales, or finance. It will give you a good idea if the person can maintain his composure while persuading a client to purchase your company’s goods or services.
For example, write hypothetical scenarios on cards where the object is convincing a fictional customer of the irresistibility of a sales pitch. Have one member of each group draw a card from a box. Then, the participants collaborate on a killer presentation.
Your team can rate which pitch is the best. Just keep in mind that the end result isn't important—it's all the interactions that offer valuable clues in how the applicant will perform when hired.
Play a game or sport
Having your interviewees play a game or sport can be a fantastic way to assess their problem-solving or creativity skills. For example, you can have them try to build a bridge over a stream or have them build the maximum tallest structure with building blocks.
Here are some ideas for more games to play:
- ROCK, SCISSORS, PAPER CONTEST: Have people keep playing until you end up with one winner. This activity gives you the chance to assess a candidate’s spontaneity, reflexes, and ability to respond.
- SCAVENGER HUNT: This activity will not only resurrect fond memories of this popular childhood pastime—it will also allow your applicants to showcase their strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities.
- ALIENS HAVE LANDED: Tell your participants to imagine that aliens from a faraway galaxy have just landed and want to learn everything there is to know about your company. The only problem is that these extraterrestrials don't speak English, so attendees will have to draw five symbols that encapsulate your business's essence.
Solve a puzzle
This is another way for you to gain an illuminating glimpse into applicants’ ability to be a team player. Here are a few suggestions:
- ESCAPE ROOM: These are puzzles where participants are “trapped” in a room and must use logic and their keen intellects to get out. If you’re creative, you can create your own. There are also virtual escape rooms conducted via Zoom, or you can check out the real-world ones in your area.
- GEOGRAPHY QUIZ: Break the group into smaller teams and have them write the names of countries on a blank world map. Participants will have to collaborate by pooling their collective knowledge, showing you how they might exhibit the same skill at your company.
Use a recruiting firm to create group activities
Recruiting agencies have the expertise to help you create innovative group interview activities that will take your recruitment efforts to the next level. Many, such as Hunt Club, can manage the entire recruitment process for you.