Group Interview

Hiring Success Glossary

Table of Contents

What is a group interview?

There are two types of group interviews--group and panel. A group interview consists of a single interviewer interviewing multiple candidates at the same time. Group interviews are most common in industries like food service, hospitality and retail.

Panel interviews, on the other hand, consists of a panel of multiple members of a hiring team interviewing a single job candidate. The interview group usually includes the hiring managers, relevant team members, and an HR representative.

Are group interviews effective?

Group interviews offer several unique advantages to other interview formats. Therefore, if your organization utilize group interviews with these advantages in mind, you’re most likely to find them effective.

  • Group interviews are efficient, allowing organizations to interview multiple candidates at the same time thereby saving numerous hours of labor.
  • Group interviews enable you to see which candidates work bets with others. Sure, every candidate will say they work well with others. Group interviewers allow you to see those skills in action.
  • Group interview environments provide unique insights into who fits in with company culture. Your organization’s culture is likely at or near its most apparent in how employees interact with others. The group interview creates an environment to help identify candidates compatible with your culture.
  • Group interviews show you who performs well under stress. Is the position at hand a high-stressed, fast-paced one? If so, consider a group interview, which will help simulate the stress and pace of the job at hand.

How to conduct a group interview

Here are tips regarding best practices for group interviews.

  • Inform the candidates: group interviews should never be a surprise to candidates. Therefore, when you request an interview with candidates you should also inform them that the respective interview will utilize a group format. This avoids surprises and affords candidates the opportunity to prepare specifically for the group format.
  • Meet with other interviewers beforehand: members of the interview team must be on the same page regarding how the interview will be conducted. Which questions, who will ask them, how candidates will be evaluated, etc. should all be sorted out before the group interview takes place.
  • Introduce yourselves: given that, in the panel format, candidates will interview with multiple employees, each member of the interview panel should introduce themselves, identify their role in the organization, and explain why they are part of the interview panel. This should occur, moreover, as soon as candidates arrive for their interview.
  • Take turns asking questions: not only should members of a panel take turns asking questions, you should determine the order of questions, and who will ask them, beforehand. This will help ensure candidates are not overwhelmed by the group and are able to focus on the question at hand.
  • Debrief with the rest of the panel: After the interview concludes, the panel should take time to share their general impressions of candidates. This debrief, moreover, should occur as soon as possible in order to ensure thoughts and impressions are fresh in the panel’s minds.

How to succeed in a group interview

There are endless tips on how to nail a group interview. Here are some of what we think are the most helpful:

  • Do your research beforehand: you should be familiar with the organization, the role you are interviewing for, and members of the hiring team before you arrive. Being prepared and informed is an essential quality for prospective employees.
  • Greet both the interview panel and your fellow candidates individually: this demonstrates strong people skills and provides you with everyone’s name, which you can reference later in the interview.
  • Prepare your introduction: group interviews will typically begin by asking candidates to introduce themselves. While this might seem like a harmless questions, it's actually the first opportunity to distinguish yourself from the other candidates. You should therefore write out and memorize a short introduction that succinctly outlines your background, experience, and why you’re perfect for the job at hand.
  • Listen: not only to the questions the panel asks, but to the answers of the other candidates. Understanding how other people are answering a question is vital information to help you provide an even better answer.
  • Don’t be afraid to answer first: while listening is important, it's also in your best interest to show initiative and be the first to answer a question or two. You should therefore look for questions that you’ve already prepared for and have a strong answer ready to go. When the panel asks one, take the lead and answer first.
  • Support some of your co-interviewers statements and involve the entire room: you are, of course, trying to distinguish yourself as the best candidate for the position. However, doing so does not require you to answer each question differently than your co-interviewees. Instead, with questions that you have similar answers to than the other candidates, don’t be afraid to agree with, but expand upon or add complexity and detail to what’s already been said. Say something like “I think (name) is correct, (their answer) is important. What I’d add to that is x, y, and z.”
  • Ask good questions: asking thoughtful questions is as important as providing thoughtful answers. You should have questions prepared before you enter the interview room.

What is a 'Meet the Team' interview?

The “Meet the Team” interview typically follows the group interview, and potentially additional one-on-one interviews. “Meet the Team” interviews are usually the final interview before hiring a candidate. In other words, if you are invited to “Meet the Team,” the organization is likely ready to hire you, and wants to make sure you fit in with the rest of the team before they do so. These interviews are typically casual, and often involve sharing a meal with team members.

Sample group interview questions (and what the interview panel is looking for)

How would your colleagues describe you?

  • What the panel wants: panelists are looking to examine your self-perception, compare and validate how your references answer this question, and assess how you’ll fit into their company culture.

Can you describe yourself?

  • What the panel wants: panelists want not only to learn about your relevant experience, they also want to get a sense of who you are personally, so consider concluding this answer with a personal anecdote, interest, or detail.

Why do you want this job?

  • What the panel wants: panelists want to see if you’ve researched the position and the organization and can articulate why you’re right for the job and a fit for the organization.

What skills are most essential for this position?

  • What the panel wants: panelists want to see how well you understand the position and how well suited you are to perform its duties.

Based on our conversation today, who would you hire in this room?

  • What the panel wants: this question is a test as to whether you’ve been listening and engaged with the conversation. The “trap” answer here is to simply say “Me, because I’m the best!” Instead, speak to the strengths of another candidate or two. Perhaps even identify someone as a great fit for a closely related position before pivoting to why you are a better person for the job.

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