Group job interview or cattle call?

Employers who use group job interviews say they're great for spotting team-oriented employees without wasting time. But some job-seekers say the whole process is nerve-wracking and even demeaning.

This article was originally published by on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor, Fortune

When ActionCOACH tells job candidates they'll be evaluated in a group when they come in for an interview, most react with surprise. Some even ask if the business coaching company is going to try to sell them something, says Jodie Shaw, CEO of the firm's operations in the U.S. and Canada.

"For the majority of the people, it is their first group interview," she says. "They're a little bit bewildered still, giving sideways glances at the next candidate."

Despite job-seekers' initial anxiety, ActionCOACH and other companies that use group interviews believe they're the most efficient way to honestly compare qualified candidates for a job opening, because they give hiring managers unique insights into how potential employees would work on a team and function under stress. But critics of group interviews find them demeaning and say they add unnecessary stress and competition in an already-difficult job-hunting process.

Saving time, being fair
Shaw finds department heads much more willing to spend one hour in a group interview of 12 candidates than to set aside 12 hours for one-on-one conversations. Moreover, by comparing applicants side-by-side, she says managers eliminate bias from their mood of the day or trouble from comparing a long-ago interview with one that occurred yesterday.

"The reason group interviews are so effective is you get to see the entire group at one time and are able to rank those candidates," Shaw explains. "If they're in the room, they've met minimum expectations for what we're looking for in the role ... I'm really looking for cultural fit."

Read the full story at Fortune's Web site.