The purpose of group interviews is to allow multiple applicants to be interviewed at the same time. Group interviews present certain challenges for both job candidates and the panel of interviewers. (Group interviews are not to be confused with panel interviews which involve a panel of evaluators interviewing one candidate).
Upside: Save time and gain face time with a wider pool of candidates
The principal benefit of holding group interviews is the time it saves. Rather than interviewing each candidate individually throughout the course of a day you meet the whole group in one session.
Likewise, if you have allocated a day to complete a set of interviews, holding group interviews will allow you to meet a much wider range of candidates and conduct a more thorough shortlisting process.
Downside: limits the opportunity to get to know candidates
The main drawback with group interviews is that it limits the amount of time you have to question each candidate. Bear in mind that if you have shortlisted a group of strong candidates a group interview might not be appropriate. A traditional interview would remain your best option where you need to get to know your candidate better.
Upside: talent identification
Group interviews provide a good opportunity for the best applicants to rise to the top. A group interview provides a group of candidates with a limited window within which to demonstrate their strengths and suitability for the position. The group interview is a competitive environment where stronger personalities will typically command your attention while weaker candidates may withdraw into their shells.
Skills and attributes commonly demonstrated by stronger candidates in group interviews include leadership, competitiveness, communication and assertiveness.
Downside: group interviews will not suit all personality types
While strong personalities may impress at a group interview it does not always follow that they will be the best candidate for the job.
It is important to consider the type of job that needs to be filled before deciding to hold group interviews. Group interviews are likely to be more appropriate when you are seeking to shortlist for roles that require an “alpha” personality such as sales or management positions.
Upside: direct comparisons
You will need to rely on your notes and memory of events to record your opinions from traditional interviews. This approach is not always 100% reliable. Holding a group interview will allow you to make an immediate assessment of each candidate’s answer in the same session. It is also useful to see how candidates interact in a relatively high-pressure situation. This direct comparison of each candidates’ relative strengths and weaknesses can be a useful recruitment tool.
Downside: knowing how to handle group interviews may require training
While the benefits of group interviews may appear attractive, how you actually conduct the group interview requires careful consideration.
The panel of interviewers will need to be carefully selected. The job of leading a group of competing applicants requires strong interviewing skills. It is also important to consider different types of group interview and what approach would be most appropriate. To get the best out of a group interview it should be structured to allow each candidate an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills and experience.