Hiring is easily one of the most critical things in the life of any company. We don’t want to shortcut it but dedicating the time to do it well is always a challenge.
Small and medium sized companies don’t have dedicated hiring managers, usually the person doing the hiring also has all their normal workload to handle too.
Simply reaching the point to eliminate a candidate can take upwards of two hours. Considering 10-20 interviews is common to fill a position, we’re often looking at 20-40 hours just for this part of the process. The key challenge is the inherent funnel principle. In order to have a single good hire at the end of the process, it takes a lot of people in the first parts.
Time invested into a good hire is certainly of value, but anywhere we can make the process more efficient without compromising the results is always worth it.
Group interviews are a great way to reduce time spent at the top part of the funnel. This is especially the case with entry level positions. The principle is simple, any elements where you can consider multiple applicants at once will save time. Early in the process any one on one interaction with candidates should be as quick as possible and focused on eliminating candidates who are clearly not a good fit or fail to meet basic qualifications.
The largest challenge with group interviews is also the key to their success. Avoiding the temptation to spend more time with candidates in the early stages will pay off in the long run. The process below includes spending only 5 minutes reviewing a particular resume and 10 minutes for a quick phone interview. If you expand this only slightly to 10 minutes reviewing a resume and 30 minutes for a phone interview, you’ve added more than a full business day of work and delayed making an offer by days or weeks.
Overall, the group interview process can save days of your time and move hiring a qualified candidate ahead by a week or more.
In addition to the time savings, there are a few other advantages to doing group interviews.
You can consider a larger pool of candidates without significant additional time. You can include candidates for a group interview who may simply lack skills in marketing themselves in their resume or on the phone.
Human interaction is a major factor in the success of any employee. Group interviews allow you to see how people communicate and function in a group of peers that would not otherwise be seen until after you hired them.
If a candidate doesn’t show up or eliminates themselves in the first few minutes of the interview, you haven’t spent a significant amount of time specifically for them.
You are more likely to see people's true colors when they are in a group of their peers.
Here’s a starting point for a process to follow for group interviews:
Spend no more than 5 minutes to evaluate each resume to see if there is anything that eliminates them from consideration. Anyone who is a potential candidate can be moved to the next step.
Arrange 2 or 3 group interview times to offer as options to candidates. Often doing one in the afternoon and another the following morning will give enough flexibility for most people to be able to attend one or the other.
Call each candidate for a quick 10 minute phone interview. Ask a some basic questions focused on eliminating any candidates that would clearly not be a good fit. At the end of the call invite them to a group interview if you want to proceed with them.
5-10 people is generally a good number for a group interview.
Have 2 people performing the group interview. One person leads the interview and handles all the interaction with candidates. The other person’s role is to simply observe and take notes. The observer focuses on what is said but also pays attention to the non-verbal communication and cues. You can learn a lot about people just by watching.
Providing a light snack can be helpful since people seem to relax and be more themselves around food. Name tags can be helpful if your group is on the larger side.
Begin the group interview 10-15 minutes “late” to allow time for candidates to interact with each other. What you observe in this time before the official interview is often the biggest indicator of the potential to be a good team member.
Go around the room and ask each person’s name and mark them off your list.
Take a few minutes to explain the position.
Go around the room and ask some non-threatening interview questions about their experience. ("Tell me about a time when you…" Past experience is the best determiner of future behavior.)
Ask if you can answer any questions from the candidates.
If appropriate, give them a quick tour as a group. Again, the goal here is to observe how they interact with each other and any people in the company that they come across.
Thank everyone for coming, let them know you would be following up with them in the next couple days.
If you do find a stand out candidate or two, it is appropriate to approach them personally and ask them to stay after if you want to talk to them more or even do an impromptu one on one interview.
An entire group interview can take between 45-90 minutes depending on how many people you have.
The group interview steps listed above should be modified based on your specific needs. Any tests, forms or questionnaires you have applicants fill out can also be handled in the group interview.
Group interviews, which allow you to have personal interaction with a larger number of candidates and also allow you to see how those people interact with each other, is something we often don’t see until after people are hired.
Obviously, group interviews won’t work for every position in your company. They are especially effective for entry level positions. For on call or temporary positions there are times when quick review of resumes and a group interview will give you nearly all the information you need to be able to offer someone a position.
If you save time in the early stages of the hiring process you can use some of that time to be more thorough with your top 2 or 3 candidates.
I hope this idea is a helpful tool to help you reach your staffing goals and will allow you to have more confidence in finding and hiring the best people for your company.