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What Is A Group Interview And How Does It Work?

Updated on September 17, 2015
A group interview is often held in a large office, a classroom, or an auditorium.
A group interview is often held in a large office, a classroom, or an auditorium. | Source

During a group interview, HR staff or company owners are looking for the most alert, responsive standouts in the "crowd" of job candidates present.

What is a Group Interview?

The concept of the Group Interview, sometimes referred to as the Mass Interview, was foreign to me until the 1990s.

I dropped into a few of these mass interviews in order to see how they operate and to determine if any real employment was at stake and on offer. I even found a summer job on year by joining a group of job seekers through an Internet advertisement..

In the 2010s, the group interview became more common place and more efficiently operated.

The usual result of this type of interview is a selection of a smaller group of job candidates. This remnant is then scheduled for future one-on-one interviews with a Human Resources representatives, a company owner, or another panel of company management types. In this way, a group interview can be seen as a weeding out process, or "first cut", as HR people call it.

In this configuration, a manager may interview five job candidates. A competitive spirit usually emerges quickly.
In this configuration, a manager may interview five job candidates. A competitive spirit usually emerges quickly. | Source

True Experiences

In the 1990s, the group interviews I observed involved 1) telephone interviewing and marketing, 2) door-to-door sales, and 3) door-hanger ad distribution positions. In each case, I answered a newspaper ad and was invited to the interview, not expecting a group setting. In a single conference room were gathered from a dozen to 30 job candidates and 3-4 company representatives each time. One company staff person began the interview with an explanation of the product or service it involved and allowed disinterested parties to leave, narrowing the field. This saved much interview time and staff time/cost as compared to an 8-hour day of panel interviews of job candidates singly at 30 minutes each.

Another company representative then stood and delivered a presentation of information about the job, usually including the rate of pay - or investment required - how long it would take to receive payment, work hours, benefits or none, and the like. Parties that had become disinterested at that point could leave. Sometimes, they got up and walked out in the middle of this chunk of information.

A third phase of the interview often included a third staff person that administered a 10-problem math quiz and/or a 5- to 10-question quiz on alphabetizing, ordering addresses, grammar, or whatever was related to the job on offer. A break was given at this point, staff people marked the quizzes and job candidates scoring within the required company criteria percentages were asked to stay for the remainder of the interview.

A GROUP INTERVIEW CAN FEEL LIKE A CROWDED AUDITORIUM WITH FEW EXITS.
A GROUP INTERVIEW CAN FEEL LIKE A CROWDED AUDITORIUM WITH FEW EXITS. | Source

Be alert for a type of group interview that takes advantage of the unemployed and individuals subsisting on fixed lower incomes.

The Dark Side Of Group Interviews

For ad distribution, an HR representative from the interview mentioned above asked the remaining job seekers to present their identification documents and other required documentation and to fill out personnel and employment forms, because they were instantly hired.

For door-to-door sales, no paperwork was filled out, the job candidates were asked to sign an affidavit of receipt for items in a box that they were to hawk in an assigned neighborhood, and then were sent out to sell. Most of them did not open their boxes to match the contents with their signed affidavits. I have a feeling the company made more on requiring the sales force to pay for "lost merchandise" than they did in actual sales.

Smelling something decidedly non-kosher in this business, I passed up signing the affidavit and going out to sell. This caused a rather loud commotion from the company people, who insisted I sign and deliver - or sell, actually, without opening the box I was to accept.

This development was not only illegitimate, but decidedly desperate. I said, "Some other time, maybe" and left.

I am always comforted by the notion that in a high sales environment, I am safe as long as I sign nothing and have no credit card or money in my pocket. Be alert for this type of group interview, which takes advantage of the unemployed and individuals subsisting on fixed lower incomes.

For one telephone interviewing position involving health related research, the fourth phase of the group interview was some practice interviewing from scripts with company staff serving as interviewees; and the best job candidates were hired based on speaking ability, rapport, and the ability to illicit meaningful answers to all the questions. I worked this job for a summer season and the experience helped me quite a bit with similar work done in research for my preventive medicine studies.

DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL HERDED.
DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL HERDED. | Source
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Interview panels look for leaders, people others follow during the group interview. This need not be a military or authoritarian operation. Leadership may sometimes even feel a bit like a cattle drive in the desert. Keep leading.
Interview panels look for leaders, people others follow during the group interview. This need not be a military or authoritarian operation.
Interview panels look for leaders, people others follow during the group interview. This need not be a military or authoritarian operation. | Source
Leadership may sometimes even feel a bit like a cattle drive in the desert. Keep leading.
Leadership may sometimes even feel a bit like a cattle drive in the desert. Keep leading.

Group Interviews In the 2010s

The group interview has become more sophisticated in the 2010s. Job candidates receive email invitations to attend and interview in which a panel of company representatives will be presenting information about the company. Candidates will introduce themselves to the group and each other, with the eyes of the panel on each one from the time they approach the doorway of the conference room. Posture, facial expression, gait, mannerisms, method of approaching others, ways of accepting interactions, communications/language capacities (including vocabulary), speaking in public, appearance of handshakes, attire, grooming - all such aspects of each individuals will be scrutinized. Leadership, management, and follower capacities will show up from the start.

The panel will speak individuals, presenting information and perhaps asking questions. Therefore, it is vital that candidates research the company and the industry in which it operates as fully as possible in order to be able to use this information and answer questions. Thus, a goal of the interview is to see which candidates know the most information and which can use that information in an applied manner. This will not be a simple recitation, but an application of knowledge to another question and coming up with a solution. Memorization alone will not help.

At some point, many of these interviews divide the job candidates into teams to tackle some small team assignment - like The Apprentice on a smaller scale. Each team makes a presentation, has a short Q & A session from panel and other teams, and finally evaluates themselves as a team and presents the evaluation. The process can seem tedious or energizing and the panel will be looking for those that are energized and not afraid to make mistakes and learn from that data.

At the end of the group interview, job candiates will likely be dismissed and those chosen for an in-depth personal interview will be contacted by mail or email notification. Those missing this first cut should also be politely notified as well, perhaps with suggestions for improvement.

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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      There are many different types of group interviews:

      1) One candidate with a several employee representatives for the company.

      2) Several candidates with one employee representative.

      3) And several candidates with several employee representatives.

      In all three case, this kind of setting it makes it more efficient for the employer. Saves them time.

    • profile image

      Insight Island 6 years ago

      thats nice you got those perfect spots any one will need for an interview

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Bliss - Thanks. We in my region usually call your Number One a "Panel Interview."

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      I had no idea companies still conducted group interviews. I attended one years ago and thought it the craziest thing I'd ever experienced, even though I netted a very nice job. I'm glad to know they have improved.

    • keepitnatural profile image

      keepitnatural 6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      Very insightful -especially for someone having no experience in this type of interview, yet needs to prepare for one! Cheers!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Thanks Fay! yes, I think most are much better now.

      Thanks for posting, keepitnatural!

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for all the great info Patty, you rock! Cheers.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      At least I've had some interesting interview experiences to share. Thanks, ladyjane1!

    • rmr profile image

      rmr 6 years ago from Livonia, MI

      I can't believe they're still doing these! I attended a few group interviews in the 80s. They were more like sales pitches than interviews, really, and if you showed up you got the job. I usually felt more like a mark than a job candidate.

      I fell for a door to door sales one when I was young and stupid. They got everyone all excited, then started the training. The goal was to do a few days of sales training, unpaid, of course, then go out and show what you could do. If you sold enough in your first few days, you were promoted into management, where commissions doubled.

      Of course nobody ever sold enough, so they were offered the alternative, "fast track" to management. Just pay $2500 and start in your shiny new management position on Monday! Plenty of people eagerly paid money they couldn't afford, and I might have as well if I had it. I was young and gullible. They told me the money wasn't a problem. If I had 2 cars, I could just sell one of them and fork over the cash. Ha! When I declined, they said it was just as well, because I obviously had a negative attitude and wouldn't be a good fit with the company.

      I'm sure there are some reputable companies doing group interviews these days, but I never stick around long enough to find out about it. When I show up for an interview and see a bunch of people being herded into a room, I just leave.

      Great hub, Patty!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Egads, Rob! What a horror story; but I'm glad you put it here for people to see. Some of this is a bigger racket than I thought. Good to see you here!

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      I have once experience this but was unable to handle the information. Thank you very much for this hub, it has enlighten me more.

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