Every activity that you include in your group process should be there for a specific assessment purpose. Don’t have an activity just to have an activity. You should include activities that get to the heart of your department’s mission, vision, values, and culture. If your department is very program-based in which your student staffers are developing activities and programs, then your group interview activities should be geared to assess skills needed for this area. Assess for the personality and skills that are essential for succeeding.
Here are a few specific group interview activities based upon a few of the functional job areas typically encountered in Student Life:
Brainstorming – You can do this individually or as a group. Give the candidates sheets of paper and markers to come up with programming ideas based upon criteria that you give them (e.g., more than $25.00 per program; must be original / nothing you’ve already attended or exist on campus)
Planning – Provide the candidates with a basic idea for a program and have them list the specific steps they would take to implement that program.
Marketing – Similar to the planning activity, have the candidates develop a marketing plan for a program idea that you give to them. Provide paper and markers for them to draw actual flyers and / or posters.
Creative Sanctioning – Give each candidate a a sheet with various student conduct scenarios on them. They are to come up with suggestions for what they think are the appropriate sanctions for each violation and present them to their group.
Following Instructions – This is a simple assessment that can be easily overlooked. All candidates should be evaluated on very basic habits needed to perform well in the workplace. This is an easy way to eliminate candidates from consideration. Do they show up on time for the group and individual interviews? Did they bring the required materials you asked them to bring? Did they complete any assignments and / or paperwork you asked them to? Candidates who fail to follow instructions (or simply disregard them) during the interview process will most likely exhibit the same behaviors if offered the job.
Listening – Break candidates up into various groups and assign a current staffer to each group. Have the staffer pretend to be a concerned parent or student and read a one-page scripted dialogue that you create. After the staffer is finished reading, they then quiz the candidates on what they just heard. You can rotate staffers through each group with a different script and different set of quiz questions. Each candidate should be given a sheet in which to write down the answers for each dialogue quiz.
Group Evaluations – In one of my doctoral courses, we were assigned a group project that has various components that were to be completed over the length of the semester. At the end of the semester, we had to provide a written evaluation of each of our teammates on their performance. You can do something similar in which you have groups who work together throughout the course of your group process. At the end of the group process, they can provide a written account of how they thought their team members performed. Not only will this offer some more insight that may corroborate what you already feel about particular candidates, but you can judge the content of the actual comments. Was a candidate particularly harsh in their criticism or did they provide constructive feedback? Was any feedback inappropriate? (i.e., discrimatory, foul language, overly negative).
Nothing should be as crucial and important as selecting top-notch student staffers for the upcoming semester or even for various summer sessions. Colleges and universities employ various processes for screening and selecting staffers, which in many cases includes a group interview process. For those of you not familiar with this, a “group process” is a day when potential student candidates are invited to participate in various activities to assess their worthiness to move on through the job selection process. The length of the group process and the types of activities involved are institution-specific, and many of the activities are handed down from one “generation” of professional staffers to the next.
While a group interview process can be a very powerful assessment tool, I have observed many that were filled with “fluff” activities and ice-breakers that did not help in assessing whether or not a student will be a good fit for the open position(s). Having student candidates solve puzzles or perform the “human knot” to determine if they would be a good resident assistant or orientation leader is just as effective as having medical students sit down and play a card game to assess their level of concentration for surgery. The only benefit of these types of group interview activities are to screen out the “show-off’s” and those who hide in a corner.
Here are some strategies and suggestions for creating effective group process activities:
Create actual quizzes to determine their level of knowledge about campus information and resources necessary for the position. While most of this information is something that would naturally be covered in training, there is nothing wrong to determine the level of awareness a student has pertaining to job-related information. A 10 to 20 question quiz can be distributed to everyone during a group process. Scored quizzes can serve as a source of valuable information to see if they take the quiz seriously and write mindful guesses even if they do not know the exact answer (or to see if they attempt to cheat!) Additionally, quiz scores can be used as “tie-breakers” should the selection process get down to a few candidates left for one remaining position. (Question examples could include: 1. Where is the counseling center located on campus? 2. What is the phone number for campus police? 3. What are the dining hall hours?)
Include activities that require them to create or demonstrate something job-related. I like to see job candidates actively show me effort and motivation. If they give a half-hearted effort during an interview process, they most likely are going to perform in a similar manner if they are hired; past behavior usually predicts future behavior. One example: Having them come prepared with a leadership portfolio to present to the group will allow you to see if they actually do the work ahead of time, the quality of the work, and if they present well to the group. The presentation is particularly important since you are hiring for positions that require high levels of interaction with people. A handful of candidates may simply self-select out because they do not want to put the time and effort into this project. An example for screening orientation leaders could be to break them up into smaller groups with a current employee and have them give impromptu campus tours. Each candidate could give a short five minute walking tour while the other candidates ask questions posing as new students. Each candidate would get the opportunity to serve in each role (i.e., tour guide and new student). Given that not every situation can be trained for, this allows you to see how they think on their feet, handle potentially difficult questions, and also to see if they are a good sport when given the opportunity to ask questions to a fellow candidate (i.e., Did they try to stump them out of malice and competition? Were they helpful despite not being the guide? Did they even ask questions? Did they take the activity seriously?)
Keep in mind that a group interview should only be one part of the entire screening and selection process; the group process should be seen as one tool in your toolbox along with individual interviews and application materials.
Please leave suggestions of group interview activities that have and have not worked for you below in the comments section.