Photo courtesy of Christina Wocintechchat
By Noelle Johnson
As an interview coach, I have helped people prepare for all types of interviews, and in my experience, the group interview makes people more nervous than any other type of interview does. If you get invited to a group interview you may be asking yourself, should I even bother?
What is a group interview?
A group interview is where you interview with other candidates with one interviewer or panel of interviewers. This means that you are there with your competition and need to stand out. Awkward? Well, it can be, but it doesn’t need to be.
Why are they doing this to me?
Companies use a group interview process to see how you work in a team environment and see what separates you from the other candidates. Sometimes the companies are hiring many people for the same role so this method can also be intended to save the recruiting team time.
Sometimes in a group interview, the interviewer(s) will have you break up into teams to work on a short project. They will see what role you play in that environment (Are you a leader? Are you diligent with instructions? How do you communicate with a team?); from there they can determine if you would be the right fit for the role and the company.
Also, if the position that you're applying for is a role where you will be expected to stay competitive with your teammates, like in some sales roles for example, this gives interviewers an opportunity to see if you thrive in that environment or not.
How do I stand out in a group interview?
Have a killer introduction
Know how to sell yourself by sharing your experience, skillset, and what you bring to the table. This is the time to let them know what makes you stand apart from the other candidates. A great elevator pitch should be practiced until you feel comfortable talking about yourself.
Take the lead, but be thoughtful
Be eager to answer at least some of the questions before your co-interviewees do—emphasis on some of the answers. You want to show that you can take the lead but without bulldozing the other candidates. It’s an interview, not an episode of Jeopardy.
“Collaboration over competition” should be your mantra during a group interview if a team exercise is given. It may seem counterintuitive because this type of interview can feel cut-throat, but if you can collaborate well with your fellow candidates, you will shine. Occasionally support some of the co-interviewees statements, showing the type of supportive leader you can be.
Be a good listener
Not just when an interviewer asks you a question, but also in how the other candidates answer. Did the interviewer respond well to their response? Did a candidate stumble in a place where you also struggle? If the same question is being asked to everyone, what can you bring that is unique to that question so that it doesn’t sound like an echo chamber?
Be confident in your answers
Don’t worry if someone’s answers sounded better than yours, focus on doing your best and what you bring to the table.
So, is a group interview worth the time?
This depends on you. If working in a group setting is not ideal for you, and the idea of competition is enough to make you wake up in the middle of the night in a flop sweat, then this process may not be for you.
However, if competition doesn’t phase you and you can hit the ground running on a group project, this may be an interview type that you really excel in.
I once had a client who had a group interview for a sales position where they were expected to break up into teams of two and do a mock sales call with one another. This scenario may feel uncomfortable for some, but since selling was her area of genius, she was able to have fun with it and show how she was so successful at selling.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since group interviews are often set up because they are hiring a lot of people at once, you may have the opportunity to work alongside peers that started with you from the very first interview. Training with someone at the same time can sometimes form a good camaraderie. Great bonds can be formed with your fellow newbies after going through the process together.