Why You Should Use Team-building Activities In Your Hiring Process

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Oct 21, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

A group interview during the hiring process has become a more common technique to interview candidates and assess their capabilities. A group interview setup can involve multiple interviewers, multiple candidates, or both.

If you’re looking to hire someone who is a great team player, we recommend having a group interview and including a team-building activity in your hiring process.

Here are four reasons why using team-building activities can help you identify the best candidate:

You’ll see more of their natural personality

Candidates always put their best foot forward in a one-on-one interview. Often, the best candidates know how to navigate the interview process and have prepared or rehearsed answers to the commonly asked questions during a job interview.

Chances are, the candidate who made that excellent first impression really is that good. But if you’d like a litmus test, put the candidates in group setting and put them through a team-building activity.

Sure, the candidates will still do their utmost to be their best selves, but you’re more likely to see more of their natural personality compared to a one-on-one setting. A group activity setting means there’s little opportunity for rehearsed answers as candidates have to think on their feet and react to the situation at hand. Their natural inclinations and instincts will come forward when participating in an activity. It’s harder to fake it when you’re engrossed in action!

You can observe how they work in a team setting

“I’m a great team player” is a phrase that a lot of job candidates bandy about either in their resume or during an interview. You can definitely ask questions and get them to illustrate instances where they displayed that quality in previous jobs.

But action speaks louder than words.

With a team-building activity, you get to see exactly how they behave in a team setting. You can observe who’s leading the discussion, who’s hanging back, who’s contributing ideas, who’s the risk taker etc.  

You can assess if/how they display the qualities you are looking for in a new hire

Having the candidates participate in a team-building activity will bring to light their personality and the qualities they would bring to the position. This can be especially crucial if you’re hiring for a managerial position, when you’re looking for someone who can effectively lead a team.

A team-building activity allows the candidates the opportunity to show how they communicate and interact with others, how they approach and solve problems as well as how they manage and fit into the group dynamic. It is also a way to observe how the candidates handle conflict and behave under stressful conditions.

You can better gauge if they would be a good fit with the company culture

If your company favors risk-taking and creativity, select an activity that focuses on that and would bring out those specific qualities out of the candidates. If your company is more collaborative than competitive, then the extremely outspoken candidate who steamrolls over everyone else is probably not a good fit.

Hiring someone who exemplifies the core values of your organization will further strengthen your company culture.

Which Team-building to Use

There are a wide range of team building activities that you can administer with minimal cost and resources. Use an activity that would bring out the qualities that you’d like to see in your new hire.

Here are some suggestions for indoor team-building activities that you can easily incorporate into your group interview:

If you’re looking for leadership qualities
Hover Ball is an activity where candidates are tasked to transport a “radioactive bomb” through an obstacle course. They will have to chart their route and allocate roles to everyone in the team. This is a great activity to see who steps up as a leader and who can effectively harness the team’s energy and abilities to reach the goal.

Resources Required:

  • 2 x traffic cones
  • 1 x small football
  • 1 x rope and cradle “octopus” (ropes of identical length)
  • 10 x blue stakes
  • 2 x 7m ropes (to build narrow alley to walk down)
  • 2 x 4m ropes (to build under and over obstacles)
  • 8 x blindfolds

Group Size: 8 to 20 ideally.

Time needed: 50 minutes

How to run the activity:

  1. Set up the hover ball course and remove any safety hazards from the area. Ensure that the hover ball has enough rope strands for one per person (for larger groups, allow them to share).
  2. Introduce the challenge to the group: The team is in a simulation in which they have to transport a radioactive bomb through a range of obstacles to a safe zone. The bomb can only be handled with the cradle provided.
  3. Give the group enough time to discuss the challenge and allocate roles.
  4. When they are ready, place the ball (bomb) on the cradle and begin the challenge.

Rules of the activity:

  • Only use the equipment provided.
  • No one can touch the “bomb.”
  • All team members must pass through each obstacle.
  • If the bomb is dropped, the team must restart the challenge.
  • The ropes on the cradle must be held at the ends, and cannot be shortened.


If you’re looking for resilience and mental toughness

The Traffic Jam exercise is an excellent way to assess how candidates react to failure and how they approach the same problem again after an unsuccessful attempt. You can observe their communication skills and how well they cooperate with their teammates.

Resources Required:

  • Cones/Floor Markers

Group Size: 8-12 participants. No more than 20 (even numbers only)

Time needed: 55 minutes

How to run the activity:

  1. Split participants into two smaller groups (Side A and B).
  2. Both groups must line up vertically (one behind the other) with A facing B and vice-versa.
  3. Everyone should have a cone next to them with a free space in the centre separating the two sides.
  4. The goal of the game is to get Side A to Side B and Side B to Side A, all facing forward.

Start Order: A B C D – 1 2 3 4

End Order: 1 2 3 4 – A B C D

Rules of the activity:

  • No moving backwards.
  • A person can only move forward to an empty space.
  • A person can not “jump over” their own team mate.
  • Only one person may move at a time.
  • One spot per person, no sharing.
  • If any of these rules are broken, the group must begin again.


If you’re looking for an effective communicator

The Magic Cane game is a fun way to test the candidates’ communication skills. In this game, everyone stands in two lines, facing each other, and is tasked to lower a ‘magic cane’ using just their index fingers. To succeed, the candidates have to effectively communicate with each other.

Resources Required:

  • 1 thin, lightweight, bamboo cane (can be purchased from a garden store) or tent pole

Group Size: 8 to 12 ideally

Time Needed: 20 minutes

How to run the activity:

  1. Split the group into two and line them up in two rows facing each other.
  2. Ask participants to hold their arms out in front of them and  point their index fingers.
  3. Lay the cane down on their fingers. Get the group to adjust their finger heights until the cane is horizontal and everyone’s index fingers are in contact with the cane.
  4. Explain that the challenge is to lower the cane to the ground while everyone’s fingers are in contact with the cane.

Rules of the activity:

  • Everybody’s index fingers must remain in contact with the cane at all times. Pinching or grabbing is not permitted — it must rest on top of fingers only.
  • If anyone’s finger is caught not touching the cane, the challenge will be restarted.


If you’re looking for creativity

You could use the Scrapheap Challenge, where candidates are tasked to build a case made from scraps that could protect an egg when it is dropped from a height. This allows you to see how candidates can be creative and think on their feet to solve problems with limited resources.

Resources Required:

  • Scrap (anything and everything)
  • Old newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Sellotape
  • Eggs

Group Size: 8 to 50.

Time Needed: 60 minutes

How to run the activity:

  1. Divide the group into smaller teams.
  2. Introduce the activity: Each team must build a case to protect an egg when dropped from a height.
  3. Provide teams with equal amount of scrap and then allocate ten minutes for teams to plan and design their case. During this time, they are not allowed to build.
  4. Once they have planned their design, give each group an egg and let them start building their case. If a team breaks their egg, then they are automatically disqualified from the activity.

Rules of the activity:

  • Only resources provided can be used for the build.
  • Team members may not interfere with another team’s build.

When conducting a group interview with team building, the review at the end of the session is just as valuable as observing the candidates while they are doing the activity. Their answers about their actions, their team’s performance, and how they perceived their teammates can tell you a great deal about their personality and working styles.

Adding a group interview team-building component into your hiring process can make a huge difference in building a strong team in your organization. It makes it easier for you to identify the best-fit candidate based on their behavior and the skills they display.  

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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