Group interviews are used by a whole host of employers, from investment banks and recruitment companies to retailers and advertising agencies. They might be the first stage of the recruitment process or they might form part of an assessment centre.
By group interviews, we mean a situation where you’re interviewed alongside a group of other candidates who are probably all applying to the same role as you. For situations where you’re interviewed by a group of the company’s employees, check out our Panel Interview article.
A group interview can come in many guises. For instance, it might involve giving a presentation about the company and the role; you might be discussing a topic with the other candidates, such as a hypothetical work situation; or you might be given a task to complete as a team.
What are they looking for in a group interview?
Group interviews aren’t a time to kick back and relax; you’re still very much in the spotlight. Most companies will have a list of skills that they’re looking for evidence of during the interview. You can usually get a sense of the kind of attributes they want in an employee from the company website and the job description. Otherwise, here are some of the key skills they might be looking for:
- Communication skills;
- Negotiation skills;
- Assertiveness and confidence;
- Ability to take and give criticism;
- Leadership skills.
How can you shine in a group interview?
It’s a delicate balancing act. On one hand, you don’t want to be a shy, wimpy wallflower, but on the other hand, you don’t want to come across as excessively domineering. Mind you, anything is better than blending into the background: you want the recruiters to remember you, not go: “Who was that person in the corner?” Well…we say anything, it’s probably best not to leap onto the interview table and “drop your thang crunk-stylee!”
Before the interview begins, introduce yourself to the other candidates; don’t stare daggers at them across the waiting room. It’s not about overtly showing up the other candidates or trying to take them down dog-eat-dog style.
During the interview, you want to be assertive, persuasive and diplomatic. You want to establish yourself as a leader, not a follower. Positive language and behaviour is the way to go, rather than gunning down anyone else who tries to speak. Also, remember it’s about the quality of what you say and what you contribute to the group interview, rather than the quantity of what you say.
Don’t throw your weight around too much, but equally don’t allow others to dominate as well. If you feel like someone else is talking too much, then invite someone who hasn’t said much into the conversation. Leadership isn’t just about shouting louder than the others; it’s also about managing people and engaging everyone in the group. You can also show leadership skills by keeping the discussion on track, if you feel like the group is getting bogged down over one issue, try to move them on.
Much of the group interview assessment process is about how you communicate with your peers, how you listen and how you respond to them. In the course of the discussion, don’t be afraid to offer something different to the consensus, or disagree with another candidate. It’s about advancing your own ideas, whilst also recognising others.
However, when you are debating an issue, try not to talk over the others; listen to what they have to say and, most importantly, keep your cool. Smiling and using humour to diffuse the situation is a good tactic, getting overly emotional or heated is a bad one. No matter what the discussion is about, it’s in a professional environment, so engaging in a slanging match is a definite no-no. Passion is important, but there’s passion and enthusiasm and then there’s going over the top.
How do I prepare for a group interview?
Essentially, you should prepare as you would for a standard interview. Make sure you’ve swotted up on the company and the role. See if you can identify the skills and traits they’ll be looking for in a candidate.
Think about the kind of questions you might face. Practise answering standard interview questions as well as getting a group of friends to engage in a hypothetical discussion. If you are currently at university or school, try and get more involved in classroom debates and discussions in seminars. Trust us! It’ll be good practice for group interviews.
So there you have it: group interviews are nothing to be afraid of. Speak up, don’t take a back seat, and you should be just fine.