What are the benefits and risks of a group interview? Under what circumstances is it appropriate? How to set up such an interview, and how to drive it? We tackle the issue.
An effective approach
At Ubisoft Quebec, the group interview was imposed for one specific job category: video game testers. “This is a position for which we receive a lot of applications and for which we hire several people at once. The group interview is an efficient sorting method,” explains Véronique Lessard, Senior Recruiter at the Québec subsidiary of the multinational video game company.
The group interview, according to the recruiter, has the dual advantage of saving time while highlighting the true personality of candidates. “The meeting lasts almost three hours; it is impossible to play a role that entire time. People eventually show their true colours. Especially in the part of the interview where they are asked to solve a moral issue.”
The formula developed by Ubisoft Quebec includes different components: a technical part, a collaborative activity about a moral issue, a writing exercise and an individual interview. Thus, the search committee (they are usually five for about a dozen candidates) is able to assess the entire know-how and expertise it needs in its game testers.
Risks on the horizon
Mathieu Guénette, CHRP, director of professional services at Brisson Legris & Associates, has some reservations about this method. He recognizes that it can give a better idea of the character and abilities of individuals who struggle to develop in the individual interviews. However, he warns recruiters against the risk of the group interview.
First, problems with the rigor and standardization. "If I form two groups and in one of them, an aggressive person takes all the space, I find myself comparing candidates who were not subject to the same conditions. It can be disadvantageous to more introverted employees. A candidate belonging to a visible minority may also feel put aside, which could lead to an investigation to indirect discrimination.”
All criticisms to which Lessard responds saying that “it is our job as recruiters to ensure that each candidate has their place. By asking questions directly to someone who seems more introverted, for example.”
The focus group can also raise privacy issues, said Guénette. “If a candidate is seeking employment in secret and a person in their network passes the interview with them, their approach may end up blowing up in their face.”
Tips for successful group interviews
- Avoid entrusting this type of interview to one recruiter. Call on a team of experienced recruiters, be aware of possible biases, be able to prevent as well as to correctly interpret the observed behaviour.
- Establish an evaluation grid with a list of observable skills and clear rating scales.
- Provide an interview of two hours, where the candidates have time to get comfortable and make an impression.
- Have many interviews so you can observe the candidates in different contexts, including an individual component.
- Upon arrival, ask participants to sign a consent form that explains exactly the course of the interview and what they will be exposed to, and a commitment to confidentiality.
- Start the meeting with an icebreaker.
- Require the evaluators to complete their notes independently of each other before exchanging their impressions.
At Ubisoft Quebec, the group interview proves productive, if you believe what Véronique Lessard says. “We hire approximately one out of every three candidates after these interviews. And I would say we are satisfied with 95% of our hires. Like the saying goes, what you see is what you get!”