How to Introduce Group Tests in an Interview


Having assessed candidates individually, by reading applications and running interviews and tests, you may wish to bring them together as a group to see how they behave and interact with each other. This can be a valid and extremely important testing method especially where the successful candidate is expected to lead or work as part of a team.

Group testing can be carried out in a variety of ways, according to circumstances. Candidates may be seated, perhaps around a circular table so that no one person is put in a more dominating position, and asked to discuss a subject among themselves. This could be of general interest (Should smoking be forbidden in public places? Should drunken drivers automatically be banned for life?) or might be job-related (Should animals be used for research purposes? for candidates wishing to join a pharmaceutical company or Should the police carry firearms? for candidates wanting to join the police force). Whatever it is, it must obviously be pitched at the right level for the group, so that a lively discussion will follow, and for the individuals concerned, so that they can all contribute equally.

Sometimes, candidates will be given a problem to solve as a team. This should be strictly relevant to the job and should not be solvable unless all of the candidates contribute their various skills and experi­ences. In the Armed Forces, a typical exercise would involve the candidates taking one of their team with a broken leg and all their equipment across an imaginary river without falling in or breaking any other legs. In business, it might involve data being supplied to the group (perhaps in advance) about a particular market oppor­tunity. They must then discuss and decide which product should be launched, which consumer group should be targeted and so on. Sometimes, a leader will be appointed (with the role possibly chang­ing hands regularly throughout the test). On other occasions, the group will be left on its own to see who the natural leaders are.

Regardless of the approach, group tests will be timed and carefully monitored by assessors sitting unobtrusively nearby. Everything that is said and done by the candidates will be noted down, or even recorded on video if all agree, for subsequent discussion. Ideally, at least two assessors will be allocated to each candidate to help to ensure that fair assessments and decisions are made, free from individual prejudice and bias.

The benefits of group testing can be considerable. Various attributes may be evaluated more easily than in an interview or through other, more abstract tests. In particular, candidates’ leadership skills (who are the natural leaders, influencing others and being listened to?), abilities to work as part of a team (who handles others well, being tactful and sensitive to their feelings?) and talents for generating appropriate ideas (whose thoughts are logical and clearly expressed?) are more readily assessed.

However, there are some drawbacks to group testing which must be recognized. It is inappropriate for some groups, especially young­sters who are often too inexperienced to cope with such a sophisticated and directly competitive recruitment technique. Group discussions often grind to a halt after only a few, stuttered comments. Restrict group tests mainly to graduate, supervisory and management posi­tions. It is time-consuming to get all the assessors and candidates together at the same time as well as being costly, bearing in mind the necessary expense of bringing in experts to devise tests and train you to assess candidates properly. The job must therefore be sufficiently important to warrant the financial outlay.

As with all other tests, do not draw up and/or run your own group tests without first seeking and obtaining good, professional advice. You are strongly advised to get in touch with the British Psychological Society or the Institute of Personnel Management who will put you in contact with professional experts who can help you.

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About the Author: Vanessa Page works a career counselor in one of the leading firms in Los Angeles. She is also a blogger and gives tips on how people can tackle their work and career issues. She has 8 years of experience in this field.

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