group interviews

Why Group Interviews Are Usually a Really Bad Idea

Startups often struggle to find the time and resources to interview candidates, making the idea of a group interview attractive. While we assume group interviews can reduce the time and cost to hire, they actually add 5.6 to 6.8 days to the recruitment process and many other negatives.

The first five years can make or break a small business, so it’s absolutely necessary that you hire the right people to grow your company. 

Here’s why startups shouldn’t use group interviews.

1. Candidates won’t be aware of key selection criteria.

A group of interviewers quickly become overwhelmed when they’re speaking to and interpreting multiple voices at once. When this happens, they may rush through the interview and only ask questions they deem necessary. This may cause them to miss culture fit or skill-based queries.

In its place, general questions are asked, like “what soft skills would benefit you in your job?,” which only have a few answers. If the first candidate takes all the answers, the other candidates will either be forced to not answer the question appropriately or mimic other candidates.

This makes it impossible for candidates to understand what you’re looking for or appear unique in a room full of the same answers. This problem gets worse if one candidate is aggressive. 


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2. Specific candidates will monopolize the conversation.

At some point, one or many candidates will realize they’re blending into the background. As a result, the biggest voice will take center stage, and that’s a huge problem for your other applicants. They have to decide whether you place more value on patience or aggression.

Either way, it’s a catch-22 for your applicants. If they let other applicants speak over them, they’re unable to shine. If they speak up, they have to compete with other voices to be heard.

However, the loudest voice in the room isn’t always the most qualified, and the quietest person in the room isn’t necessarily unconfident. If you’re unable to hear from each candidate equally, especially for more complex roles, there’s no point in conducting an interview in the first place.

3. Group interviews work best for seasonal roles.

Large enterprises looking to hire seasonal retail staff in a short period will use group interviews to get eligible candidates on the floor as soon as possible. While this doesn’t always work, it can be a great strategy for roles that don’t require a lot of training or are considered “disposable.”

That’s not to say retail staff are disposable because they aren’t, but organizations that group hire do so with the intention of letting staff go after a short period. Unless you want to do the same, it’s a good idea to conduct your interviews one-on-one to let everyone have their shot.

4. Top performers will avoid group interviews.

Top performers got to where they are today through experience and a lot of practice. They’re more likely to use internet prep platforms, like Exponent at tryexponent.com, to prepare for their roles. The quality employees you’ll want for your startups take the interview process seriously.

Now, imagine how disappointed they’d feel if you expected them to reveal their job interviewing techniques, personal details, and core attributes to people who are vying for the same position. 

Most top candidates wouldn’t discuss that information with a stranger, let alone their industry competitors. Not only that, but group interviews violate a person’s privacy, which is bad for candidates who don’t want to explain why they’re searching for another job to their current boss.


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5. Group interviews can affect your company’s reputation

Group interviews are often called cattle calls by certain businesses that utilize the practice. Not only does this term dehumanize the interview process, but it also reveals the truth. “Cattle calls” give off the impression that you’re not concerned with an individual’s talents or personality.

Job hunters and startups alike are aware of this fact, which is why your reputation takes a hit when you send for a cattle call. Once your reputation suffers, it’s a lot harder to get it back. This limits your talent pool in the future and could prevent others from working with you.

6. Recruiters can’t ask as many focused questions.

By their very nature, group interviews are impersonal. Unless the interviewer wants to embarrass their candidates, they can’t ask personal questions that would help them assess their personality. It also makes it harder to ask behavioral questions, as they take too long to answer.

Unless recruiters want their group interviews to last several hours, there’s a chance they’ll run out of time or not ask as many questions as they’d like. It’s unlikely your candidates will have time to ask their own questions at the end, and if they do, they won’t be able to ask them all. 

7. The process requires multiple skilled interviewers.

If you still plan to initiate the group interviewing process despite the negatives, you still need to find multiple skilled interviewers to evaluate candidates appropriately. Most startups won’t have the resources to do so, as conducting effective solo interviews is already a hard-to-find skill.

For startups, it’s cheaper to hire a recruiter and interviewer who’s experienced enough to find the right talent for your roles. In the end, if you have the cash flow to hire a panel of experienced group interviewers, you should use that money to optimize your recruitment process instead.


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