This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
A group interview involves a discussion with more than one job candidate at a time. It may also involve more than one interviewer. This interview method works well if you need to hire more than one person for the same job or if you are looking to hire a group of people who need to work together as a team.
Group interviews can be conducted in-person or online. Either way, you should carefully prepare your invitations and interview agenda. Group interviews can be informational presentations with a question and answer session or conduct a group activity. The first type is applicable if you are looking to hire numerous people for the same position. For example, if you are hiring 40 people for the same call center role. The group activity type is suitable if you are looking to hire a team, such as a new marketing team with various roles that need to be filled.
If you are looking for tips on how to conduct an interview with one candidate and multiple interviewers, see How to Conduct a Panel Interview.
Conducting a Group Interview in 10 Steps
1. Write Job Descriptions
Create your job descriptions (JDs) and post them to a hiring board and your company website. Your HR team or co-managers can help you write fitting job descriptions. To ensure quality and accuracy, ask another team member to edit the JD before you post it to a public job board. Another set of eyes always helps.
2. Gather Hiring Team
Decide who you want to be on the hiring team and give them some idea as to when the interviews will be conducted. Currently, many are looking to create a diverse team such as a mix of managers and team members, rather than just managers. Other team members can provide firsthand insight on the day-to-day duties of the role and they know exactly what the team needs to meet their goals.
For more insight on hiring, check out our guide on how to hire new employees.
3. Manage Invitations
Prepare your list of attendees, create and send your interview invites, and manage your job applicant responses. You may choose to use your own email address, a unique HR email address, or a hiring service’s messaging system to manage the invites and responses.
4. Create an Agenda
Decide whether you are going to lead a discussion or group activity. Create your interview agenda and share it with the rest of the hiring team. Ask for input from the hiring team and try to anticipate the questions applicants may ask ahead so you can formulate answers in advance of the meeting. Keep in mind your interview goals as you create the agenda.
5. Schedule Interview Space
Schedule your room if applicable and other services if needed, such as catering. Consider other issues such as parking, directions, security passes, ADA access and safety regulations. Request supplies you may need such as company pamphlets, pens and pencils, company swag, whiteboards, and so on.
6. Prepare Yourself
Carefully organize your notes, prepare interview questions, and practice your presentation. If you have time, you may want to meet with the hiring team and perform a mock group interview to discover weak spots in your presentation or group activity. Create a candidate scorecard.
7. Interview Day
Arrive at the interview space early. If you are conducting an online interview, login and test the meeting service before the interview. Arrive prepared—have your water, be rested, organize your notes, find your pen, and turn off your phone.
8. Conduct Group Interview
Explain to the applicants the interview process, the company’s hiring goals, expectations of the role, and hiring timelines. Let them know when the appropriate time will be to ask questions. Make sure they know how to contact you if they have further questions after the meeting. Stick to your schedule and follow up in a timely manner.
9. Create Hiring List
While the meeting results are fresh in your mind, meet with your hiring team and create a potential hiring list or a list of those you’d like to invite to a second interview. Decide together how you want to communicate the next steps to the applicants. Begin to create the outline for the next round of interviews.
10. Follow Up
Create rejection letters and invite-to-interview emails and send them to the appropriate applicants. Prepare onboarding requirements and schedules. Follow up on all correspondence quickly. Create email response templates if needed.
Benefits of Group Interviews
Saves time and money
Interviewing 20 candidates at once rather than separately interviewing 20 saves a lot of time and resources. For example, you only have to explain the company goals once. Plus, the hiring team only has to attend one interview rather than 20.
Group interviews allow you to present your company history, market and goals once. Additionally, you only have to answer the same questions once rather than 20 times during individual interviews.
Candidates benefit from questions of others
Candidates can benefit from the group interview process as well. For example, they hear answers to questions they didn’t think to ask or were too shy to ask. It also allows them to meet those that they may be working alongside.
Group Interview Best Practices
The top best practice for conducting a group interview is deciding if this type of interview is appropriate for the position and company goals. Once that is decided, you may also want to consider the practices below.
COVID-19 and Health and Safety Concerns
It would be best if you considered the safety of your applicants. An in-person group interview may not be the best option during a pandemic or if there are other safety concerns such as construction taking place at the worksite that may lead to an injury. In this case, an online interview would be best.
Explain to Applicants Privacy Goals
Early in the interview, explain to the applicants the company’s privacy goals and that they should also actively protect their private information during the group interview.
Respect the Applicants Time
Everyone’s time is valuable. Start on time, stick to the schedule, be prepared, and follow up.
Develop Facilitation Skills
Whoever is leading the interviews should be trained to facilitate. Experienced facilitators know how to manage interviewees who attempt to dominate the discussion or those who may ask inappropriate questions. Your HR manager, HR trainer or recruiter should be able to help you learn facilitation skills.
Educate Hiring Team
While one person may be leading the hiring process and the interview, every member of the hiring team should be informed. They should fully understand the role to be filled, company and team goals, and the interview process. If possible, they should formulate answers to anticipated questions that may be asked of them in advance.
Create a Candidate Scorecard
Using candidate scorecards for ranking candidates helps keep the hiring process unbiased and ensures that no one is forgotten or skipped over. Scorecards should be created per job role and focus on the unique expectations of that role.
Sample Group Interview Questions
Before getting “down to business,” many like to ask a fun ice-breaker question. Ice breaker questions help your hiring team get a sense of the applicant’s personality, and it helps everyone relax. Most often, you will not ask personal questions, such as “where do you see yourself in your career in five years?” in a group interview. Those types of questions are suitable for one-on-one interviews. However, you may obtain useful information about the candidates by asking them questions about the group activity.
Following a group activity you may choose to ask:
- What made your group exercise successful?
- How could your team have improved the results of the team exercise?
- What stumbling blocks did your team encounter and how did you overcome them?
- Who on your team would you hire and why?
- How did you contribute to your team? What was your role? How was that decided?
- If you had more time, what would you have done differently?
- Did you learn anything from other teams?
- How would you describe your team members?
- How do you think your team members would describe you?
How to Conduct a Group Interview FAQs
Should I share my direct email or work phone number with applicants?
To screen your calls and organize emails, it is better to create an email address specifically for handling communications with applicants. You can create a unique email such as join(company name)@ company name.com. Or you can use a service such as Indeed to screen your messages.
How long should the group interview last?
Depending on the number of people involved and the type of interview process, most group interviews will last 30 minutes to a few hours. If the interview lasts multiple hours, make sure you supply access to water and proper breaks.
What kinds of questions should be avoided?
You should not ask any questions that may potentially violate a person’s privacy. While you may learn about their age, marital status, health issues, home address, and such later, it is not appropriate to ask for personal information during the group interview.
What could go wrong during a group interview?
A few things may go wrong. You can avoid most issues with proper planning. Some interviewees may think the interview is a waste of their time and may leave. Sometimes the loudest and most aggressive applicant may dominate the discussion. Or, someone on your panel can go “off script” and lead the group away from the agenda. Again, proper planning can help you skirt around these problems.
How do I avoid interviewer biases?
There are a few practices you can implement to help your hiring team avoid biases. First, make sure everyone is allowed to speak equally. Second, organize a hiring team rather than allowing one person to make the hiring decisions. Third, remind the team to focus on the skills required for the position. For example, an outgoing, friendly disposition may apply to customer experience team members, but it may not be a skill needed for your new accountant.
Who Should Attend Hiring Interviews?
In some cases, the recruiter may lead the group interview, especially if the job is entry-level or if it is a mass hire. If you are hiring specialized roles or teams, you may have the team leader, or manager attend the group interview. Some also choose to invite a few associates or same-level co-workers to the group.
If you decide that a group interview is suitable for helping you fill open roles in your company, proper preparation can help you meet your goals, avoid issues, and find the best candidates. A group interview is a great tool to use if you need to hire many people, such as an entire production floor. Group interviews may also help you if you need to add team members to an existing team, such as a few engineers to an existing team. Just remember to start with a plan and get others to help you, so you end up with the best results—finding the best candidates possible.