Interviewing can be an arduous task for employers. It’s even harder when you’re on a tight time frame, and you need to hire a group of people for a fast-growing company, a seasonal event, or simply if you need to streamline your hiring process. Instead of spending your entire day interviewing candidates one by one, and trying to determine how well they’d fit into your company, why not consider conducting a group interview?
When Do Group Interviews Work?
Group interviews work well for large-scale hiring when your aim is to determine how your candidates interact with each other. In group interviews you can gauge if candidates are presentable, confident, and comfortable speaking in front of others. Furthermore, you can see which candidates are ostentatious and pushy, and which are more desirable facilitators and team players (depending on your company needs). With a group interview, there can be several interviewers with specific tasks to help make the process easier. Group interviews are efficient, and time-saving too.
What type of industries does group hiring work for? Well, it can work for any companies that need large-scale hiring. That can include startups or new offices where you just got a new revenue stream, and need to set up shop fast. It can also include season companies that hire temporary staff over Christmas, during busy times, or for peak summer hours, like at a summer festival. It would benefit hospitality, catering, retail, and fast-food industries too.
When you’ve spent time sourcing candidates, and need several, a group interview can keep candidates interested and engaged. It also helps build a pool of potential employees to be used for roles that may come up later (i.e. the candidate would be better placed in a different role).
How does a group interview differ from a normal interview?
- Timelines. Since you’re sourcing many more candidates, group interviews can take longer to hire - but perhaps not as long as if you had to interview all thirty candidates over the course of a week!
- Dropout Rates. Since they’re large scale, there’s more room for candidates to drop out and to be busy on the set date. Group interviewing relies on multiple candidates being available on the same day and time instead of the more flexible individual interview. On the plus side, you’ll know that those that attend are the most committed of your candidates.
- More People. More Efficiency. If your company needs, say, fifty new hires for an event, then how long would it take to interview all of these candidates individually? It would probably take the better part of a fortnight. So with group interviews you can see more people at once, and make faster decisions on who is right for you. Just as you’d train a large-scale group all at once in one week-long training session, for example, it makes sense to hire them in one session too.
- Malleable. Group interviews can be tailored for each sector of your business. For example, if you need twenty five waitstaff, then you can develop a process, interview questions, group activities, assessments, and so forth tailored to hiring for those candidates, but if you need more senior-level staff all at once, then those activities can be customised too; in this case, it may be more about finding out who can do what and who can work together well before conducting more personalised, round two and three interviews.
- Difficulty. It takes longer to organise a group interview than it does a traditional, one-on one interview, but we’re here to help!
How to organise a group interview
Streamline the process by formatting your company’s group interview style for different roles within the company. If your company hires en masse regularly, it’s a good idea to write down what works and doesn’t work until your company has perfected process.
If you only hire in large groups occasionally, writing down the plan and notes helps too. Just as the perfect one on one interview takes time to master (i.e. what questions work and don't work, and so forth), it takes time to master the group interview strategy too.
Narrow your candidate pool and select a date
Before you begin you need to have candidates selected for the process. Maybe 100 people have applied for the position, and you need 25. Invite, say, 30-50 candidates to interview, and then narrow the pool down via the group interview process.
Before you begin inviting people to interview, you have to decide which day (or morning) and time you and your colleagues can devote to the group interview. Keep in mind that some interested candidates may reject the invitation to interview simply based on availability. To combat this, you may select two dates and times and see when each candidate can make it.
Remember that when you invite the candidates, you will need to provide them with an outline of the day’s activities to let them know what to expect (i.e. 8 am: Introductions; 9 am Group Activity; 10 am Small Group Discussion).
Plan the day
Make sure you plan the day with the other people on your interview panel. Decide which activities to include, and why you’re doing them - what outcome will each activity measure. Don’t include pointless exercises in which the interviewees will feel you are wasting their time - make sure each outcome is measurable to some degree.
Decide how you’ll measure the outcome: are you simply jotting down notes on each candidate, or does each candidate have his or her own checklists to see if they’ve demonstrated certain desirable qualities? You may want to provide some refreshments to your candidates, and - since it will be a large group - nametags.
Here are some things to consider when planning your day:
How many people need to be on each panel and what will they do?
Decide how many candidates are in each session, and how many interviewers you need. Do you need to include the HR director, the direct manager for the role, and a team member or two? Do you need more people? If so, who will you need, and what is their availability?
Make sure that the interviewers are available at the date and time you’ve set in place as well as the candidates.
If you’re inviting 30 people to the group interview, do you need 1:6 ratio of interviewer to candidates, or do you need a 1:5 ratio (i.e. when you divide into smaller groups, 1 interviewer for every 6 candidates or 5)? Or do you need to be paired (3 groups of 10)?
You’ll need to decide how to best set a checks and balance system and how to assess the candidate’s efficacy.
Write and plan each activity, and what each person on the panel will do during the activities. Will someone moderate the panel or facilitate the group activity, and another take notes on each candidate? Will everyone talk during the introductory session, or only one person?
Make a plan and an outline to make everything run smoothly.
What type of activities do you need?
You’ll probably want to make your session go something like the following (although, you have free reign when it comes to what to include):
a) Introductions: allow your candidates to make a short introduction. Maybe provide some prompts (name, hometown, interesting fact, and so on).
b) Informational session: talk about your company, introduce those on the panel, maybe have them explain a little about what they do, explain the role in more depth and what the candidates will be doing (i.e. serving food at a festival; catering a large event; providing additional support staff for a department store, etc) and how the day will go.
You may want to include someone on the panel who is in the role to discuss why it’s such an attractive offer, and how much they enjoy the job too!
c) Team building tasks: divide your candidates into smaller groups and have them perform a set task. You may provide two activities (and rotate groups between each): one that’s more of an icebreaker to see how they interact with others, and another that’s more of a problem solving activity more specific to the role itself.
You can provide large and small group activities as needed.
d) Individual Questions: you may want to bring the group together as a whole and ask some individual questions, or ask them when the candidates are in groups.
Or you may ask your candidates to provide a short, 3-minute presentation, and your panel will listen to the candidate’s presentation on the day.
e) Closing: you may want to bring the candidates together and thank them for their time, and explain the time frame of when they’ll hear back. You may also decide to divide the session into two halves and narrow down on the day; the decision is yours!
How long should each activity take?
Make sure you decide how long it should take for each activity and plan in some wriggle room in each session, in case time goes over so you can finish at the projected time. Some candidates may have engagements after the interview so it should finish on time for the sake of professionalism.
So if you’ve decided the day should last from 9am to 2pm, decide what you can reasonably accomplish in that time with, say, 5-7 minutes between each activity, and go from there.
Write down your plan to solidify it. If it’s your company’s first time running a group session, you may want to do a mock run-through just to see how long it will take to complete tasks. This run-through will take additional time, but once you have the processes in place, it’ll make mass hiring much, much easier.
Inform the candidates
Great! Now you’ve planned your day, you need to let the candidates know they’ve been selected.
Compose an email letting the candidate know they’ve been shortlisted by your company for a specific role, provide an overview of the day, and explain what to expect. Let them know the date and time, any parking or public transportation details they need, and who to contact in case of emergency / traffic, and so on.
Make phone calls (if that’s your planned method), and then let the candidates know you’ll send them an email of what to expect, and to prepare anything if needed.
A week before the interview, you may want to send an email reminder, or in the event of faster turnaround, a few days before the interview. Re-send the details about the interview, and let the candidates know anything they need to bring or prepare (again).
Run the interview
Whew! You’ve done all that planning, and now you need to run the interview itself. You may be as nervous as the candidate, but you want to make sure to present your company as a great place to work. You’re selling the company image as much as the candidates are trying to demonstrate their readiness to work for you.
Be sure to project a friendly image and persona when running the interview, and be encouraging to the candidates.
Determine the selection process
After the interview, get together to decide who is going through to the next round (or who is getting hired) whilst it’s still fresh in your mind.
Discuss too how the interview process went, and what went well / could be improved for next time. Make sure you have a plan in place to decide who will get an offer and who will not. Is it a point scoring system? Are you simply hiring candidates who got on together and who were team players? Are there people who were qualified, but didn’t seem to work well in the dynamic?
Send out offer letters
Once you’ve decided which candidates you want, send out offer emails or call the candidates to let them know.
Keep in mind you may want to have a backup list of candidates in case there are those who do not accept the offer. Once you’re to this stage, the process will be the same as when you’ve hired based on a one-on-one interview, so use your company’s policy from this point forward.
Organising a group interview like a pro may be a long process and require many steps and careful planning, but once you’ve set the process in place, it will make hiring large groups much faster and easier.
As with anything, practice will help the process become streamlined. Furthermore, if you have a positive group interview process - and you’ve projected your company as the place to work with a great atmosphere - you may attract more interested candidates via word of mouth. If candidates have had a good time during your group interview day, they’ll recommend your company to their friends. Once you’ve set the process in place, your company can save time and resources, be more efficient, and make hiring easier overall. Give it a try next time you need to hire a large group of people, say, yesterday!
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