Group Interview

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The prospect of a group interview makes some applicants cringe, others drool-depending on how aggressive or passive they are and on to what degree they will have to "fight it out" or to which they can inconspicuously blend into the crowd. Still others take it in stride and may even view a group interview as a corporate status symbol and derivatively view an invitation to one as a feather in their own caps.

For the company, group interviews can be much more economical and efficient with respect to time and effort, and also provide valuable data-mining, promotional and testing opportunities-especially for big companies that rely heavily on teamwork, team spirit and team projects. The group interview may also be a corporate size and status indicator, in suggesting that jobs with the company are so coveted that mass interviewing is necessary.

In a hiring situation, it sometimes becomes necessary to do a group interview in the interest of company time and efficiency. When this is a viable or necessary option in the hiring process, there are considerations that should be taken into account for maintaining a proper level of scrutiny of the applicants.

In a group interview, the interaction between the interviewer(s) and each applicant is diminished, making the process less personal. This method should be used primarily for a first interview situation, so that a second interview can be held individually with applicants who are chosen from the initial group to continue in the process. One way to get a better picture of the individuals in a group interview is to have them complete a questionnaire either before the group interview or during. The advantage to having them fill it out before the interview is the efficiency of the time frame, while having them complete it during the interview allows for some observation of behaviors while they fill it out. Whichever method is adopted, it is important to make the most of the situation and gather as much information as is possible from the applicants.

Another consideration of group interviews is the interactions between the applicants themselves. This can be distracting, catalytic or informative, depending on the atmosphere established and the controls put in place for the interview. Observing their interactions can be very revealing with respect to how they deal with people and their level of comfort with others.

There are, of course, risks associated with a group interview: When, as is commonly the case, the applicants want to believe they are (deserving of being treated as) special, some may be very resentful of a "cattle-call"-style interview and of being denied the opportunity to shine as a standout. Likewise, having much less time available for their individual questions may frustrate some applicants. Some applicants may perceive a group interview as being thinly disguised gladiatorial combat in which they are pitted against each other-and therefore harbor negative feelings against the company, if they are not the battling gladiator type.

On the other hand, a group interview format can also offer corporate mass-presentation, product and applicant testing, data-gathering, screening, morale-building, bonding and promotional opportunities-not to mention "economies of scale", in terms of saved time and effort. Pluses from the applicant perspective include a format in which more passive applicants can "hide" to some degree and in which highly competitive, aggressive applicants may be able to demonstrate that they are, if it that's what the company is looking for.
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