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How to Conduct A Successful Panel Interview

Depending on the position you are hiring for and the goals of the interview, you may want to consider the group interview format when interviewing candidates for an open role. If so, you may be wondering how this interview method differs from one-on-one job interviews. Learn why these techniques may work for your organization and what you can do to handle group interviews professionally.

What Are Group Interviews?

While we imagine most job interviews as a one-on-one interaction, a group interview changes the dynamic by having several candidates interviewed at the same time. They may be asked questions by a single hiring manager or several team members. How the questions are asked varies based on the goals of the interview.

Different Types of Group Interviews

Group interviews are designed to obtain information about the candidates. Beyond that, each interview may look very different. Most fall into one of two basic types, however:

  • Candidate group interviews: These call for more than one job applicant to be present to be in the same room at the same time. They are often applying for the same job. They could be asked the same questions or different questions.
  • Panel group interviews: In this type, there is only one candidate being interviewed at a time but by more than one person. The panel, which is made of relevant team members, may take turns asking questions or engage in a more conversational, group discussion-style of interview.

Group Interview vs Panel Interview

Group and panel interviews differ in the number of candidates being interviewed. A panel interview has many interviewers but just one job applicant. A group interview has many job applicants being questioned by one or more interviewers.

When Should You Use a Group Interview?

A group interview is an efficient option for companies looking to hire for positions that rely on communication skills and teamwork. These types of jobs include sales, customer service, HR, marketing, or other people-facing titles. Whether it’s an internal or external position, if there will be a need for problem solving with others, a group interview may reveal pertinent information that a one-on-one interview won’t.

Group interviews can also be an excellent option for those with tight time restraints, such as companies looking to rapidly hire seasonal positions. They work for hiring large numbers of people with the same job description as well. They are also ideal for evaluating candidates with little-to-no previous job experience, because the interactions prove valuable for learning more about entry-level applicants in a group setting.

Why Conduct a Group Interview?

The advantages and disadvantages of a group interview are many, with the perks being uniquely suited for the types of positions we mentioned before. Benefits of group interviews include:

  • An efficient method for interviewing many candidates at the same time, helping reduce time spent in individual interviews.
  • Allows many job applicants to be compared to each other, which is a powerful hiring method when job experience is too similar to help any one candidate stand out.
  • Gives opportunities to identify rising stars, future leaders, and candidates who may be suited for another role.
  • Keeps bias to a minimum, as candidates are weighed on their communication and interaction skills.

How to Conduct a Group Interview

There is a basic structure to group interviews that you can follow for the best results. The steps include:

  1. Let the candidates know of the interview and what to expect. Include what they may bring, how to dress, and any other details that can help them succeed. Give them ample notice.
  2. Meet with other interviewers and stakeholders to ensure the interview goals are identified and agreed upon. Go through the list of questions ahead of time. Come to an agreement on who will be asking what.
  3. During the interview, introduce yourself and other interviewers first. Explain the goal of the interview and attempt to calm nerves about what may be an unusual interview structure for many of the candidates.
  4. Consider a group activity before any formal or individual questions. Ask that they solve a puzzle or work together to create something.
  5. Ask that each group explain their process in solving the puzzle or coming up with a solution. Try to get each member of the group talking, if possible.
  6. Move to individual questions, asking the same thing of each candidate, if applicable. For example, someone who has identified that they have no previous work experience may not have as much to share.
  7. Let the candidates ask questions that they have, but stay mindful of time. Remind candidates of how they can reach out after the interview if they want to ask questions in private.
  8. Wrap up the interview by thanking everyone and informing them of the next steps. Make sure you include information on what will happen if a candidate is not asked to continue with the hiring process, as well as what will happen if they are.
  9. Go over the results of the interview with your interview team. Compare notes, or use a scoring sheet to see how each compared. Discuss any major discrepancies observed between interviewers.

Group Interview Questions to Ask

It’s best to take a structured interview approach with group interviews using the same questions, in the same order, for each group being assessed. Common questions include:

  • What attracted you to this job or company?
  • What do you like to see in a company culture?
  • What is a past work accomplishment you are most proud of?
  • Why are you leaving your last job?
  • What unique skills or experience do you bring to this position?
  • Describe a time you solved a problem and were praised for it.

You may be inspired to come up with new questions as you go through the process, but try to stick to your list of questions as much as possible. This reduces bias and ensures that each candidate is evaluated on the same answers.

Group Interview Best Practices

As mentioned in the steps to a group interview, it’s best to be prepared. Make sure you’re ready by doing the following:

  • Have your questions established ahead of time.
  • Don’t deviate from the format.
  • Look for ways to compare candidates fairly and consistently.
  • Use the data you gather in your interviews to not only look for the best new hires but to evaluate your outreach methods and the quality of applicants you are receiving.

Group interviews can be a fantastic tool for evaluating your recruiting methods and to quickly fill certain positions in your company.

If you’re looking to improve the way you interview candidates, we can help. At Comeet, we provide automated, streamlined solutions so that you can find, interview, and hire the best people for your company.

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