10 group interview questions to reveal your strongest candidates

Group interviews, sometimes called panel interviews, provide a unique opportunity to assess a candidate from multiple perspectives at one time. “Group interview” can also refer to an interview style where one person evaluates a group of candidates together, but for this article, we’ll focus on panel interviews. Unlike one-on-one interviews, the group or panel interview is a dialogue between the candidate and a cross section of potential supervisors and coworkers. While you could treat it like any other interview, you would be missing out on the chance to ask some truly insightful questions and follow-up questions unique to the group interview experience.

Each interviewer has a different interviewing style and goals, thus group interviews require a bit more planning and structure. To avoid confusion and make sure that everyone gets a chance to address the candidate, assign a leader to ask the primary, overarching questions, while other panel members focus on asking follow-up questions.

The group-interview format often works best for evaluating candidate traits such as culture fit, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills. We've assembled our top essential group-interview questions that can be integrated into your interview process.

Top group-interview questions

These 10 group-interview questions (and follow-up questions) are designed to help you fully evaluate job seekers.

1. What do you like to do for fun?

Job interviews — particularly panel interviews — can be a stressful experience for candidates, so at the beginning of the interview, focus on putting the interviewee at ease. Candidates who are more comfortable will be more open and expressive with their answers.

Use this question to establish rapport with the candidate and make them feel like a part of the group rather than a subject being interrogated. Showing interest and curiosity about the candidate outside of the office encourages them to open up. Additionally, you can catch a glimpse of your potential new hire's personality and how they might relate to others in the organization.

A word of caution: Make sure your interviewers are aware that this question could cause certain biases, such as similarity bias, to arise. Teams should work together to identify biases when they occur, and implement structured safeguards to ensure they don’t impact the hiring process.

Follow-up: How did you get interested in that?

2. Why do you want to work for our company?

A candidate's answer to this question can tell you a lot of things: why they want the job, how enthusiastic they are about joining your team, and whether they have a good understanding of the values and goals of your company. It can reveal how well they comprehend company structures and how mature and advanced they are in their development as professionals.

It can also showcase their skills at reading their audience. Assuming they did their research on who would be interviewing them (and assuming you gave them all of the relevant information in the interview-confirmation email), they should be able to address and engage different team members in the room with an idea of how they are professionally connected.

Follow-up: Why are those attributes important to you? Why do you think you’ll be able to succeed at our company?

3. In five minutes, explain something that is complicated but that you know well.

This is a great question to ask during a panel interview because answering properly means understanding your audience, not just the topic you’re explaining. It's a test of a candidate's communication skills, and their ability to break down complex subjects and convey only the essential pieces of information. Those are crucial skills for anyone applying for a job that involves speaking, teaching, or writing for an audience.

Ideally, the candidate should be able to explain their chosen subject (it doesn't really matter what they choose to talk about) well enough that everyone on the panel understands. They should also be able to answer follow-up questions in an easy manner.

Follow-up: How did you decide what information to tell us, and what to leave out?

4. What three important attributes or skills would you bring to our company?

On the surface, the candidate's answer will reflect what they view as their best qualities. By drilling deeper, you can get some insight into how they see themselves fitting into your company.

This is also a productive group-interview question because you have people present from different departments, who may place greater or lesser value on the same attributes. In follow-up discussion, this also gives the hiring manager an opportunity to discuss the role in greater detail, and how those traits align with the job description and day-to-day tasks.

Follow-up: Why do you see each attribute as a strength? How will they benefit the company?

5. Describe a mistake you made at your last job and how you resolved it.

When a candidate describes a real-life situation, it gives you a window into concrete actions they took and the reasoning behind those steps, often making it more revealing than a hypothetical question. Sofia Quintero from EnjoyHQ says that during a group interview, they “mostly ask for stories from previous jobs. We try to understand what the candidate likes and dislikes from his/her previous working environment.”

The response to this particular question reveals a lot about the candidate's pride or humility and their ability to own up to mistakes, make them right, and prevent similar mistakes in the future.

If the candidate can't name a mistake or can only come up with a very minor, incidental one, that's a sign they may have trouble admitting when they've done something wrong. Most everyone would agree that it's ok to make mistakes, as long as you take the steps to fix and learn from them.

Follow-up: If you could do things again, what would you do differently? How have you changed your work habits in response to this incident?

6. Describe a time you experienced a conflict while working on a team project.

The answer to this question can reveal a lot about a candidate's conflict-resolution skills, capacity for teamwork, and attitude toward coworkers.

Even the most high-functioning teams run into conflicts, and you want your hire to be able to handle these conflicts in stride, articulate a path forward, and treat others with respect. How did they handle themselves (and others) during the conflict? Do they take sides? Do they know when to keep their cool and not intervene if doing so will only aggravate others? Do they intuit the right time to loop in leadership? Are they a team player, or do they just look out for themselves?

Follow-up: How do you think your stance helped bring the conflict to a resolution? (Ask this if they weren't directly involved.) What do you think those involved could have done to resolve the conflict better?

7. Tell me about a time you identified a problem with a process and the steps you took to improve it.

The purpose of this question is to glean some insight into the candidate’s approach to problem solving, as well as their initiative in the workplace.

Use the candidate's response to assess their work ethic and culture fit. Is the candidate proactive about improving company policies and functions? Will they work to change the company for the better, or are they happy to coast along with the status quo? Do they take risks? This question also helps evaluate the candidate’s ability to influence other teams to make decisions and commit resources. Likely there were teams that were resistant to changing a particular process — look for ways in which the candidate was able to advocate for the desired changes and make compromises when needed.

Follow-up: What do you wish you had done differently? What would you have done if [XYZ] wasn't available to you?

8. Tell us about a time you disagreed with the rules. How did you handle the situation, and how did it turn out?

These are additional culture-fit questions that can reveal the candidate's attitudes toward authority. If a candidate has a hard time thinking of an example, ask them for one that is unrelated to work.

Is your candidate a rule follower or a risk taker? Both could have a place at your company, but it's important that they have the good judgment to understand when it's okay to bend the rules and when rules should be respected. You don't want someone who is blatantly defiant anymore than you want someone who blindly follows the status quo. Use the group setting to probe their decision with follow-up questions that flesh out their thought process.

Follow-up: What do you wish you'd done differently? What did you learn from this experience?

9. Walk me through how you would do [XYZ]...

Kerrie Juels from Formlabs likes to use group interviews to assess technical skills: “Our group interview tends to be technical in nature. It's a great way for two people to evaluate technical skills in one interview.”

When a candidate is able to clearly articulate a process or technical concept, it demonstrates that they have a deep understanding of the topic and are able to organize their thoughts and communicate clearly. In addition to communication skills, this type of question also illuminates if the candidate has a different style or approach to solving a problem that your organization may not have considered. Do they think outside the box and consider all angles of a problem before coming to a conclusion?

You should also use this question to test adaptability and the ability to recognize opportunities for process improvement. This can be further explored with follow-up questions that challenge the candidate to think differently. Do they understand why a process is the way it is, or do they blindly follow instructions? Are they interested in improving existing systems, or do they want to keep doing things the same way?

Follow-up: What if we were to flip steps 3 and 4 you described or do [ABC] instead of [XYZ] in the process. Do you think that would make the process better or worse? Why?

10. Why do you want this position?

If the candidate is sitting in the room with you, you know they probably want the job. But why? Are they motivated by money? Interested in career growth? Are they in search of a new challenge? Are they simply desperate to get out of their current job?

There’s no “right answer” to this question, but there may be answers that raise red flags about whether the candidate is committed to the role for the long-term and growing within your company. Note that wanting to work for your company is not the same thing as being excited about the specific role. You want to see that the candidate has given the subject some thought and is approaching this potential life change from a place of reason and intention.

When posed as the last question in the interview, this also gives the candidate an opportunity to make one last case for themselves as a potential hire.

Follow-up: What are your career goals? How can this position help you get there? What about the listing attracted you to this position?

Looking Beyond the Answers

Group interviews are a great way to assess not just what the candidate says, but also how they behave. Panel interviews can be intimidating for candidates. You have one person facing, two, three, or more people whose sole purpose is to evaluate the candidate’s performance. The way the candidate reacts to this tense situation can say a lot about their professionalism, grace under pressure, and interpersonal skills.

Does the candidate remember everyone's names? Do they interact with everyone on the panel and make eye contact? Shake hands? What is their body language like? Paying attention to these subtle cues can tell you a little bit more about your candidate and help you determine whether they are a good fit for your company.

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