How to spot superstar talent in a group discussion interview

19th Dec 2016
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What is a group interview, and how is it beneficial to you as an employer? Simply put, a group interview can be categorized as (i) A group of interviewers interviewing one candidate (ii) Multiple candidates being interviewed by one or more interviewers.

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A group discussion interview is a sub-set of the second category, wherein a group of fresh candidates, either before or after their personal interviews, is placed together for a group discussion, debate, or an assignment, primarily to see how they work as a team. The benefits of having a group discussion interview can be many. It allows you to see how effectively they work with a team and test how soon they gel with strangers. It allows you to notice leadership capabilities, differentiate the dominant ones from the submissive ones, and be able to choose accordingly, based on your requirements. It also allows you to see which candidate is a better fit for your office culture and save time as you can conduct multiple interviews simultaneously.

But while this can serve as a good test, in the absence of great supervision, it can also turn into a disaster. Remember the great old Roadies group auditions? How absolutely horrific some of them could be, where everyone just kept yelling and the entire group had to be eliminated! But choosing a perfect team member can't be taken as lightly as one level of a reality show audition. As a hiring manager, how can you ensure you don't lose out on good, shy talent due to the over-powering presence of a few dominant personalities in a group? How do you pick out from a group of excited youngsters, all simultaneously trying to prove their worth, each showing how he or she is better than the other in their own ways? Here are a few things you can keep in mind:

Don't ignore the quiet ones

Like I have mentioned one before in my article about introverts, introverts are often less vocal in a group scenario, not because they don't follow, but because they prefer to observe the nuances of the situation before leaping in head first. This is a great quality in a team resource, but also one that can easily go unnoticed in a group interview. As a supervisor, make sure you don't ignore the quiet ones. Notice their body language and try to gauge if they're listening and being observant or if they are simply lost. If it's the former, they deserve more attention than they're getting because good listeners are a great asset to every team.

Pick signs of leadership

Try and see which candidates are not just trying to showcase their best but are also drawing inspiration from the others in the group. These will be the ones who appreciate the important points raised by other candidates, not in a stealthy manner, but by giving them due credit and then adding their own point of view. Giving credit where it's due is not only a great sign of self-confidence but also goes a long way in building a great team dynamic in the future.

Seek the ones standing out

In any group discussion it is easy to fall into submission with the overpowering majority. Your job as a supervisor is to seek the ones who don't fall prey to the sheep mentality. These will be the ones who speak their mind, no matter how unpopular their opinion might make them. Individuality in thought, as in personality, is a useful creative trait, one that will be a great asset to your organisation.

Differentiate assertiveness from aggression

Watch out for the thin line between aggressiveness and assertiveness. Assertiveness is, as we have tried detailing here, a very tricky road falling right between passiveness and extreme aggression – and you don't want to be making a mistake in this regard while hiring! Make sure the candidates who are being very participative and vocal are not doing so at the cost of stealing time from the others. People who talk out of turn or start disrespecting and degrading the opinions of others in the group should be marked out and keenly monitored for signs of assertiveness vs aggression.

Staffing is a landmark step in starting a new company, and one that strongly defines the success and productivity of your startup! As important as it is to experiment with traditional staffing practices, it is also essential to make sure you know what you're getting into. Hiring the wrong talent is not a mistake you'd want to make, so make sure you’re doing your research right!

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