Group interviews: Benefits & Drawbacks

By: Together Abroad 01-03-2016

Categories:** HR Trends in Recruitment,

A group interview is a special interviewing situation where several candidates are interviewed at the same time. While the least common of interview types, the group interview is a creative way to help employers quickly get through multiple candidates. When done correctly, and usually as a first-round interview, the group setting carries great advantages over scheduling individual first-round interviews with each candidate. However, this type of initial screening process is not without flaw. Here are some benefits and drawbacks presented with group interviews.

The Benefits
Group interviews are exceptionally handy if you find you have many candidates all vying for the same position. This is usually where group interviews are employed, as it allows employers to quickly qualify or eliminate candidates in the first round of interviews. This will cut down the number of individual interviews you'll need to schedule.
Many candidates prepare for an interview, and have their answers figured out before it takes place. However, a group interview takes them out of a natural interview environment, allowing for less-prepared answers. This lets interviewers to see how a candidate really functions in a team environment, forcing candidates to speak up and show interest in the company or line of work they are getting into, as well as show the practical applications of the experience they have gathered. This helps recruiters check if candidates handle particular situations against what experience and situation they should have faced based on their CV.
Group interviews are also a great way to give your candidates more information about the position, the company, and most importantly, the culture. This way, you’re not answering the same questions repeatedly, and it gives candidates a chance to ask questions and hear answers to their peers’ questions.

The Drawbacks
Group interviews are incredibly focused on competition. While above we mentioned the potential for camaraderie to appear, and to genuinely see how candidates react in stressful team environments, the fact that a position is on the line is very much on all the candidates mind. As such, you can never be sure if their appearance is true to their personality, as you'll be seeing many unnatural responses. While this could be true for any interview, where in a group, panel or otherwise, the unnatural aspect means that those candidates who are more apt for cunning manipulation will get an edge against quieter, yet equally qualified candidates.
One way of countering this is by using a first-round group interview as a way to observe the team-focused side of a candidate, where you can assess their strengths and weaknesses once you have their individual interview. It may be helpful to start with non-elimination group interviews while you and your team grow accustomed to the style and techniques that create a successful group interview. That way, your candidates are not penalized for a period of growth while you work out the kinks.

Furthermore, when staging singular interviews, interviewers can create a set sample of questions which can be reused for each candidate. Group interviews are more difficult, and require more creativity in its implementation. If you do decide to implement a group interview, it’s important to spend time focusing on what you’re looking to get out of it. For example, let’s say you want to see how candidates work with others. What activities can be used to achieve that? Scavenger hunts? Team building? Splitting them into teams to solve a problem? This means that much more time will be spent on a group interview compared to individual interviews.

Group interviews are useful when you want to hire a relatively large number of people in a relatively short period. While it offers a quick solution to a large intake of candidates, it fails to give a prospective employee the chance to perform at peak performance. Despite this, the pros of group interviews outweigh the often-preventable cons. Use the time during a group interview to get to know your candidates in a more casual setting, and allow them to see the relaxed, more accurate representation of the company they’re interested in.

By: Alexander Morrison