If you need to quickly evaluate a large applicant pool, or if you’re filling a position that requires teamwork and communication skills, a group interview may be more effective and efficient than several one-on-one meetings. You do lose the personal touch of individual meetings, so you’ll need to make extra effort to connect with candidates.
Explain the Process
Many applicants have never attended a group interview before and might feel nervous or unsure of what to expect. Begin the meeting by estimating how long it will take and describing the process you’ll use to interview and evaluate candidates. For example, let them know you’ll ask them to participate in a few role-playing exercises later. Help applicants feel more at ease by asking everyone to introduce themselves, in addition to introducing yourself and describing your role at the company. Offer a short presentation explaining the roles for which you’re hiring and what it’s like to work at the company.
Observe Applicants’ Behavior
For employers, a major advantage of holding group interviews is the ability to evaluate how candidates interact with others and how they perform under stress. Start assessing candidates even before the interview begins. Watch for which applicants strike up conversations with other participants and which ones keep to themselves. Also notice how they spend their time before the meeting. Observe if they make or take calls on their cell phone, send text messages or check their social media accounts, or do they review their notes.
Acknowledge Each Applicant
For some job seekers, a group interview can feel demeaning and like a “cattle call” rather than a genuine effort to determine if there’s a good fit. Demonstrate that you value each candidate’s time and that you want to thoroughly assess their qualifications. Review each applicant’s file and greet everyone by name. Reference one or two details mentioned in the resume or cover letter so applicants know you have a sincere interest in getting to know them.
Evaluate in Groups
With a one-on-one interview you can only predict how an applicant will relate to other employees. With a group interview, however, you can evaluate candidates’ teamwork and interpersonal skills firsthand. Organize group activities where participants must work together to complete a project or achieve a goal. Observe which group members step up and take on leadership roles and which ones follow. Also notice who stays calm and who communicates effectively, in addition to who can’t handle the stress or loses patience with fellow team members. To ensure the process is fair, ask attendees to take a short personality test so you can group people based on introversion, extroversion or working styles.