Best Practices for Using Group Assessments for Selection

Document prepared by the Personnel Psychology Centre

As federal departments and agencies strive to innovate in staffing and assessment, they’re showing increased interest in the use of group assessments for selection. This document provides human resources specialists and hiring managers with key considerations and best practices in the use of group assessments for selection based on merit.

What are group assessments?

Group assessments typically assess the ability to interact and work with others in a problem-solving setting. They can also assess other competencies, such as:

Group assessments are most useful when they’re part of a multi-method assessment strategy, which provides a comprehensive and reliable understanding of candidates’ competencies

There are 2 main types of group assessments:

Leaderless group discussion

Group interview

  • Candidates are grouped together and given a limited amount of time to discuss or resolve an issue with no other instruction or intervention from the assessors observing them
  • Candidates are grouped together and interviewed simultaneously as they take turns responding to interview questions
  • Both types of group assessments can be used to assess the same competencies that are typically assessed in the traditional one-on-one structured interview
  • When candidates are given opportunities to react to each other’s responses, group interviews and leaderless group discussions can both assess interactive competencies

What does the research say?

Leaderless group discussions

Group interviews

What are the benefits of leaderless group discussions and group interviews?

To maximize the benefit of group assessments, they must be carefully planned and structured to ensure they are inclusive and provide valid, reliable and fair measures of performance. Read on to learn about the best practices for designing a group assessment.

Best practices for effective leaderless group discussions and group interviews
  • Ensure that your group assessment is related to the job and uses realistic scenarios
    • This will enhance candidate buy-in and increase the validity of the tool
  • Ensure assessors can multitask and collect information from several candidates at once, through careful planning and training
    • Assign no more than 2 candidates per assessor
    • Consider place cards and assigned seating to ensure assessors have a clear view of their assigned candidates
  • Allow enough time and have clear instructions so that candidates have equal opportunities to demonstrate their competencies
    • Some candidates may be reluctant to interrupt other participants, which could result in collecting incomplete information
    • Providing clear instructions and sufficient time reduces barriers in assessment by making it easy for each candidate to participate
  • Consider limiting the size of your group to 4 to 6 candidates
    • This makes the exercise worthwhile and ensures you’ll collect enough information on each candidate
  • Determine an order or rotation to improve the quality and originality of responses obtained in group interviews (for example, if the same candidate is always last, they may have fewer ideas to contribute to the group’s responses)
    • This increases fairness by ensuring all candidates have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their competencies
  • Think about solutions to manage the stress levels of candidates who may feel more self-conscious in a group setting
    • Provide ahead of time information about the exercise and the competencies that will be assessed
    • Consider an ice-breaker or other type of introductory exercise to increase candidates’ comfort level

How are other organizations implementing group assessments?

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat used group interviews to assess a large number of candidates in a short period of time (5 candidates per interview)

Environment and Climate Change Canada used a leaderless group discussion for senior management positions to assess a large number of candidates at the interview stage

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada developed a group exercise to assess detailed and job-related behaviors that were difficult to capture using other assessment methods

Want help implementing a group assessment?

The Public Service Commission’s Personnel Psychology Centre offers:

For more information, contact us at 819-420-8671 or by email at cfp.cpp-ppc.psc@canada.ca.

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