Common in the retail and hospitality fields, group interviews allow recruiters to observe a candidate’s communication skills as they interact with others.
In a world where time is money, group interviews allow companies to share information with a number of candidates in an economical and time-saving manner.
But more importantly, interviewers can observe a candidate’s communication skills as they interact with others.
“Group interviews are really common in retail and hospitality, and in companies that hire large cohorts of entry-level positions,” says Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg (www.talentegg.ca), a Toronto-based company that helps students and recent grads transition from school to work.
Some group interviews may include work-simulation exercises. “It’s an opportunity to see how people work together and to observe group dynamics — who’s a natural leader and how they get work done,” Friese says. Interviewers can also assess a candidate’s organizational, planning and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to work as a team player, handle stress, and deal with and provide feedback.
Achievers, a leader in employee rewards and recognition software, holds group interviews for predominantly entry-level positions and positions that require working closely with clients and customers/members. At the same time, it introduces candidates to its company culture so they can determine if it’s a good fit.
“Group interviews allow Achievers to see how candidates interact with one another because it is often different from how they interact with the interviewer,” says founder and chairman Razor Suleman.
“For Achievers, candidates that stand out in a group interview are those who are engaged, knowledgeable and show a genuine interest not only in the role but in what their peers — other candidates within the group interview — are saying,” he says. “Group interviews are often used to assess whether or not a candidate is a team player and would work well with a client.”
Just like traditional one-on-one interviews, candidates should arrive 15 minutes early, dress professionally and be informed about the company and the position.
Group interviews favour some industries more than others, notes Tim Ryan of Vestigo (www.vestigo.ca ), a Toronto-based online job site. “It certainly favours those industries in which you have to be outgoing, gregarious and talk to customers,” he says.
Ryan has heard of group interviews with as few as three candidates and some with as many as 20. The format can vary dramatically: some will ask candidates to make a presentation while others will ask each candidate to respond to a question. “Companies are usually very good at stating what they expect … but some candidates don’t pay attention to what’s expected. Go through the material the company provides very closely,” he says.
In advance of the interview, think about your role in the group. “If you’re applying for a hospitality job where you’ll work in a team to get things done, you definitely want to highlight how well you work in a team,” says Friese. “If the position requires leadership, show those skills. If you’re applying to be a greeter at a store, show that you’re outgoing.”
The newest form of group interview — particularly in information technology — is a company open house. “Key decision makers are there and you can go around shaking hands and chatting,” Ryan says. “It’s a clever way of getting to know people outside a formal setting. When you’re asking a stock question and getting a stock answer, it’s hard to know what that person is really like. Put people in a big room with other people, food and drinks, and everybody relaxes a bit.”
Stand out in group interviews
- Introduce yourself to other candidates before the group interview begins.
- Listen to other candidates but be sure to contribute your comments and ideas.
- Appear confident but not aggressive. Don’t dominate the conversation and don’t interrupt others.
- Acknowledge valuable contributions from fellow candidates.
- Be aware of your body language.
- Do your research about the company and position in advance and prepare meaningful questions and answers to mock questions.
- Send thank-you notes to interviewers immediately following the interview.