Group interviews are growing in popularity, but they’re still a massively underused hiring method.
When group interviewing is done effectively it can be a powerful way to get the best out of your candidates. A group interview can improve your quality of hire while reducing your time-to-hire and cost-per-hire.
It’s not all roses though, and there are some disadvantages to consider too. Group interviews definitely aren’t the best solution for every business.
Read on to find out if they could work for you.
Pros of Group Interviews
One of the most obvious advantages to group interviews is speed. By conducting group interviews, you can quickly sift through a large number of applicants. This is ideal if you have to screen hundreds of potential applicants.
2. Go Beyond The CV
Due to the speed of the group interview process, you are able to see more applicants in more detail than you might otherwise. Without a group interview, you have to be more discerning on the basis of a resume, because you don’t have time to interview as many people. This risks missing out on potentially talented applicants whose resume didn’t do them justice.
3. Assess Team Skills
Conducting a group interview allows you to assess how applicants naturally work as part of a team. This is a critical skill that classic one-to-one interviewing techniques don’t draw out. At interview, everyone will claim to be a “good team player”. A group interview lets you assess whether that is actually the case.
4. Easy Comparison
A group interview allows you to compare multiple candidates against one another easily. This can help you narrow down exactly what your perfect candidate does look like, and make the decision-making process easier.
5. Show Off
Group interviews are an excellent opportunity to show off your employer brand. Take the opportunity to tell potential applicants as much about you as possible. Even though most of the applicants won’t become fully-fledged hires, this is a fantastic chance to earn some employer brand evangelists.
6. Get The Cream of the Crop
Many people perform best in a group interview compared to a traditional interview. They’re aware of actively being judged against other interviewees and will tend to put their best foot forwards. Even more so than in a one-to-one setting. This is good news from both the employer and the candidate perspective. Win/Win all around.
7. Allows Objectivity
Group interviews often involve multiple hiring managers. This brings a level of objectivity to the process from the get-go, and allows you to make quicker, easier, more objective hiring decisions before wasting anyone’s time.
8. More Natural Answers
We’re all familiar with what Mitch Rothschild calls, “the interview face”. Candidates are so familiar with the traditional one-to-one interview format that it can be difficult to get anything other than answers by rote.
A group interview setting is less familiar to most, because fewer companies are leveraging the format. As a result, candidates are less indoctrinated and often will give more natural answers. That’s ideal for you because you can get a better sense of what your candidate is genuinely like. If you’re having trouble filling interviews, our online recruiting system can help. It speeds up the hiring process, keeps your talent pool organized, and lots more. Click here to use our recruiting system online for free.
9. Less Stressful
From the candidate perspective, that is. Many candidates find a traditional interview format to be stressful and high pressure. In the worst case scenario, this means you’re not seeing the true potential of that candidate.
Understandably you want applicants who can handle stress, but interview-stress isn’t necessarily a fair measure. It’s like assessing someone on their public speaking ability, when you actually need them to cope under tight project deadlines. Different types of stress.
10. Assess Communication Skills
This is closely linked to assessing team skills, but it deserves a point of its own. In a group interview settings, you’re able to get a much greater sense of how applicants communicate. This can be particularly important if you’re hiring for a managerial role, or scouting for people you hope will become managers.
11. See Cultural Fit
One of the biggest advantages of the group interview is that it allows you to see a much broader range of behavior. A traditional interview is a more formal one-on-one setting, and you’re not getting a breadth of information. The breadth afforded you by the group interview can allow you to make much stronger, more informed decisions about cultural fit.
That’s quite a list of advantages. Group interviews are still massively underused, though, so let’s dig deeper into the reasons that might be the case.
Cons of Group Interviews
1. Competition Driven
Dog eat dog isn’t always the best way. While the competiveness of a group interview can bring the best out in people, it can also bring out the worst. If the role you’re hiring for doesn’t require someone who copes well in a competitive environment, you could be interviewing for the wrong skills.
Some roles – such as sales – are well suited to competitive group interviewing, but others are not. At the worst, this might mean you actively dissuade top talent from wanting to work with you.
2. Overlook Quiet Types
The group interview environment is naturally biased towards outgoing, assertive personality types. This could mean that you overlook quieter but equally talented candidates. People who could have been perfect for your role could be forced out during the interview process, and that’s not ideal for anyone.
3. Greater Effort to Co-ordinate
While group interviews allow you to see more candidates more quickly, they take longer to organize. You’ll generally need more than one manager to make sure everything runs smoothly and effectively too. This can be difficult to coordinate. Pinning down everyone’s schedules to find mutual free time can be more difficult than simply slotting in interviews for one manager.
4. Discriminates Against Outliers
In any group setting, there’s a tendency for outliers to look more outlying. For example, someone with a strong personality might appear to be almost obnoxious in comparison with a broad scale of people.
This might sound like a good thing, but in reality the setting is tainting your perception of those outlying candidates. This means you might not be getting the best person for the job, after all. Going with the average often isn’t the best route.
The double-edged sword of the group interview. While they might allow you to see a much more natural range of behaviors, they tend not to allow you to dig deeper. They’re more about breadth, less about depth.
The setting of a group interview doesn’t lend itself well to intimacy, or personal revelations. This can leave you feeling that you don’t really know any of the applicants any better than when they came.
6. Lack of Control
This is a manageable disadvantage, but a disadvantage nonetheless. The more people you have in a group interview, the more unmanageable it becomes. Conversation can easily derail, and you can wind up feeling the interview was ineffective.
At worst, a group interview can be a waste of everyone’s time. It requires strict coordination to make sure you get the most out of everyone there, so you can make fair hiring decisions.
7. Easy to Miss Subtle Signs
The nature of a group interview is that it’s easy to miss things. You’re not focusing to the same extent on each individual, so you could easily miss important signs.
Some candidates will be immediately yes or no hires, but there can also be subtle signs that a candidate could be a great fit, or that they’ll be a nightmare hire. The former is more dangerous, and could mean you rule someone out who could have been a real business asset.
8. Difficult to Build Rapport
Particularly for client-facing roles, you need a candidate who can naturally build rapport. Those relationship skills are often hard to see in a group interview setting. As a result, you can end up making hiring decisions based on bad, or irrelevant, information.
9. Put Candidates Off
One of the biggest problems with group interviewing is that it might put candidates off interviewing with you. While traditional interviews are so indoctrinated as to be de rigeur, candidates might decline to interview with an employer who offer group interviews.
You might take the attitude that you don’t want candidates who’re put off by group interviews, and for some roles that’s fine. If you need people who are assertive, competitive and thrive in a group environment, that’s probably true.
However, we are in a talent-tight hiring market. Anything that dissuades candidates from applying or interviews with you might not be a good move.
Group interviews can be a massively effective tactic, but they do have their disadvantages too. When you’re deciding whether to use group interviewing as part of your hiring process, there’s one important test. You need to assess what the required skills are for your role, and then assess whether group interviews are a productive means of testing for those skills.
For instance, if you’re interviewing graduates for your sales team, group interviews could be perfect. However, if you’re interviewing for an IT support manager, a group interview might be testing the wrong skill sets. As with any hiring technique, the better you can test for the skills you need, the better hire you’re going to get.
With that in mind, jumping on the group interview bandwagon just because it saves you time is probably not the best idea. Start with the role you want to hire for, and then design an interview process around that.
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