MT agony uncle Jeremy Bullmore

How do I conduct a group interview?

What group activity would you suggest to pick out the best pair that could work as a team?

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Last Updated: 15 Sep 2014

Q: I'm currently recruiting for two account managers. They would need to work very closely together and operate well as a pair. I have a shortlist of 10 strong applicants. Could you recommend a group activity that will help pinpoint the best double act?

Jeremy says: I suggest you form the applicants into two groups and set them the task of meeting a challenging brief: preferably one related to your business. (Some, of course, may decline to take part, which in itself suggests that they can be safely eliminated.)

You should allow at least one full day for this exercise. The groups will work in separate rooms and will be expected to select their own leader and appoint other members to take the lead on specialist roles. The written brief should contain quite a lot of detailed background information, some directly related to the project and some not.

They will be required to absorb this data and discard the irrelevant, agree objectives and suggest the specific and concrete actions needed for these outcomes to be achieved. At the end of the day, the two groups are allocated, say, 15 minutes to present their recommendations to you and anyone else you choose to include.

Throughout the day, you will have been a constant visitor to the two rooms, closely observing the dynamics of the two groups and the personal chemistry between their members. You will learn a lot and your ideal pair should emerge quite naturally.

You might be tempted to form only one group, but better not. A team of 10 is too large and an element of competition is essential. And if you suspect that a member of group A might make an ideal partner with a member of group B, give them an ancillary problem to solve.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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