When there are many candidates and a large hiring team, employers may opt to use group or panel interviews for efficiency’s sake. While it may save time and allow more employees to quickly weigh in on hiring decision-making, it also has its limitations. At a high level, group job interviews can involve multiple interviewers and/or multiple candidates. For the purpose of this story, we’re going to focus on group interviews from the employer’s perspective, i.e. multiple hiring company employees interviewing a candidate or candidates in a panel job interview setting.
Here’s what 10 hiring experts had to say about whether dedicating more of a hiring plan to group interviews equals more of an efficient solution or an ineffective evaluation.
Pros of Group Job Interviews
“From the employer perspective, group interviews save time and provide an understanding of how a candidate fits in with others,” said Eric Chen, MSM MSAT MBA JD Associate Professor, Business Administration University of Saint Joseph.
After speaking with Eric, and 9 more hiring experts, it became clear that the primary pros of group interviews were time savings, live team dynamics, and less canned interview talk.
- Group Interviews Save Time
Great companies have more great candidates interested in working with them than they have open hours in a day. The group interview can go a long way towards getting more employee-candidate facetime in less time.
“It can lessen or eliminate the need for multiple interviews for the candidate,” said Chere Taylor, Founder/President of Fulcrum HR Consulting. “It is not uncommon for employers to ask candidates to return multiple times to interview for the same position. This can be problematic in many ways, the candidate may have to take time from work and if the interview process becomes too protracted, the candidate may lose patience and choose to disengage. It’s tough to find good candidates, and therefore, the process should be as streamlined as possible.”
“Holding group interviews is much quicker than spending several days interviewing and recruiting candidates individually,” said James Rice, WikiJob’s Head of Digital Marketing. “This type of interview can also streamline the recruitment process, particularly in situations where a company is appointing a large volume of applicants at the same time. Fewer interviews means less time spent away from the business, which can result in significantly better efficiency.”
“The person asking a question is able to pay closer attention to a candidate’s responses because others are available to assist in note taking,” said Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP & Owner/Consultant at sproutHR.
“Group interviews can make some sense because candidates won’t end up answering the same questions over and over again,” Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR, SHRM-CP & former Prof. of Management & Human Resources at Doane University. “But since nobody can predict how involved a candidate’s replies might be, plenty of time must be scheduled for the group interview process to be completed — or its value may be compromised!”
- Group Interviews Create Live Team Dynamics
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see how a candidate could work in a team environment before you hire them? By conducting group interviews, companies do get somewhat of an indication of how a candidate interacts with potential colleagues and superiors. One-on-one interviews simply cannot provide this insight.
“All necessary parties can participate and interact with the candidate at the same time and in the same way,” said Chere Taylor, Founder/President of Fulcrum HR Consulting. “A group post-game meeting can identify their thoughts as to how the candidate responded to questions, and there is continuity in the questioning itself. You eliminate the potential for different managers going off-script and possibly asking ill-advised questions or coloring the position in a way that is not particularly ideal. The candidate has the opportunity to get a good sense of the company and who they may be interacting with all at once.”
“Multiple insights into a candidate’s responses to questions and having colleagues present can create better follow-up questions to get a full response,” said Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP & Owner/Consultant at sproutHR.
WikiJob’s James Rice pointed to how a real-time environment can make an easier comparison of candidates. “Group interviews can replicate the everyday working environment and give employers the opportunity to see how well candidates might work.”
- Group Interviews Leave Less Room For Candidates’ Canned Interview Talk
Don’t you hate it when you interview a candidate, and you feel like you might as well be their mirror? Smart candidates can most definitely anticipate the majority of interview questions, but with a group interview, there are more people to vary the flow of the conversation. This can create less canned interview talk and more organic conversations.
“Group interviews can help interviewees relax so you can tell more about the person’s real personality,” said Jeff Swaney, president at Swaney Consulting Group, LLC. You can get a much better perspective on the ability of the interviewees to communicate and interact with others. Are they confident, do they like working with others, are they aloof and alone? The group interview dynamics can help you determine if a person will fit into your job and within your current job culture.”
“For positions that include responsibilities for dealing with multiple people at the same time (executive, manager, sales, etc. positions), group interviews are a great way for the candidates to demonstrate their ability to handle these sorts of situations,” said Jenson Crawford, Sr. Engineering Manager at Ad.net.
Cons of Group Job Interviews
“From the employer perspective, group interviews create less time to spend with a particular candidate and may not uncover important facets of a candidate,” said Eric Chen MSM MSAT MBA JD Associate Professor, Business Administration University of Saint Joseph.
The primary cons of group interviews are time (mis)management, incomplete/inaccurate evaluations, candidate bombardment, and the overall chaos they can create for all parties involved.
- Group Interviews Can Be a Time Management Nightmare
How difficult is it to schedule an 8-person meeting with people who already work in the same building? Now image half work in the building and half work at other jobs across the city. Scheduling group interviews can be a nightmare.
“The more people involved in a group interview, the more challenging the scheduling will become,” said Lori Rassas, Employment attorney, career, and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller The Perpetual Paycheck: 5 Secrets to Finding a Job, Keeping a Job, and Earning an Income for Life in the Loyalty-Free. “While you want to be sure to take as much time as you need to ensure you have the best candidate for your role, you also do not want to lose out on top talent because they decided to accept a role at a different company that engaged in a hiring process that moved at a more reasonable pace. In addition, an employer who is scheduling a group interview will likely have to schedule the actual discussion for a longer period of time than what one might expect in a one-on-one interview.”
- Group Interviews Can Make Employers Form Incomplete or Inaccurate Evaluations
Would you rather know a bit about four candidates or a lot about one candidate? It’s the core of the trade-off. Often times, employers convince themselves they can have their cake and eat it too. It’s unlikely you’ll learn as much about a candidate in a group interview as you would in a one-on-one.
“These group interviews can provide a lack of depth,” said Tim Toterhi, an ICF-certified executive coach and the founder of Plotline Leadership. “Time and money savings can often be false pros because if you don’t take the time to properly assess, even at entry level, the cost of rehiring and retrain will far outweigh the savings.”
“If there is a senior person in the group interview (like a VP), others may just fall in line with what he/she says, even if they don’t feel the same about the candidate,” said Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP & Owner/Consultant at sproutHR.
“The more people a hiring company includes in an interview, the more challenging it becomes for the company to control the flow of information,” said Lori Rassas, Employment attorney. “Of course, the best employers want their candidates to make informed decisions as to whether or not the position is a fit, but a group setting will increase the likelihood that extraneous information will be injected into the conversation. When interviewing a candidate one-on-one, in contrast, the interviewer will have much more control over the flow of information and this will increase the likelihood the candidate gets all of the relevant information and is not inundated with information that is outside the scope of the process.”
- Group Interviews Can Make Candidates Feel Bombarded and Undervalued
The core of a good candidate experience is making the candidate feel valued. If their job interview is shared with many other candidates, do you think the candidate gets the impression that the company values their time?
“Those in a group interview will feel in competition with each other, so some will look to be as prominent as possible: speaking whenever they can, interrupting others, etc.,” said WikiJob’s James Rice. “Some otherwise excellent candidates who would have to speak up in a one-to-one interview may be overly shy in a group interview, and the employer might overlook them because they were not sufficiently vocal.”
A group environment will favor the louder and more assertive candidates… but are those the in-demand traits for the job you’re hiring for? As Senior Marketing Manager at PhishLabs Lindsey Havens said, “A more quiet, but equally qualified candidate might be overlooked.”
“Group interviews can create groupthink where everybody [all candidates] tends to answer each question the same way,” said Jeff Swaney, President at Swaney Consulting Group, LLC. “This tends to be more true when interviewees are answering performance or job-related questions.”
“Interviewing can be tough for more introverted candidates; a panel or group interview may be somewhat overwhelming, which could lead to a solid candidate not exhibiting their best,” said Chere Taylor, Founder/President of Fulcrum HR Consulting. “This is very unfortunate because they may have the ability to be a top performer, they just aren’t comfortable in a somewhat loaded group setting.”
- Group Interviews Can Create Chaos
Ultimately, job interviews are to compare candidates. The more systemized your interview process is, the easier it is to eliminate variables. Group interviews have many more variables that affect candidate evaluation.
“It’s tough to reach consensus from the panel as to what questions to ask that are relevant to the position and who will lead the process,” said Chere Taylor, Founder/President of Fulcrum HR Consulting.
“Group interviews can be chaotic if everyone isn’t on the same page coming into the interview (format, questions to ask, order of who will ask questions, etc.),” said Ashley Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP & Owner/Consultant at sproutHR.
“Group interviews create undue stress on candidates, which impacts getting good data, and they are hard to control,” says Ron Hamilton, the Chief Consultant at Practical HR Solutions. “Too often employers create confusion with who asks what questions, how are probes handled, etc.. Effective one-on-one interviews help get the best information to predict success on the job.”
Group Job Interviews: Are They For You?
These hiring experts do a great job of weighing the pros and cons of group interviews for employers. Do the trade-offs work for your organization? Weigh the benefits of group interviewing (time savings, live team dynamics, and less canned interview talk) against the disadvantages of group interview interviewing (time management, incomplete/inaccurate evaluations, candidate bombardment, and the overall chaos) to determine if a group job interview is the right choice for your department or company.