Group interviews can be terrifying for candidates, and it’s incredibly challenging if you are a natural introvert. It can be daunting to compete with the loudest extrovert in the room. There’s always one! That person can dominate the entire interview process and leave you feeling like you failed, perhaps because you didn’t know how to handle group interviews.
Usually, interviews are one-to-one with a hiring manager, you, and that person alone in the room. Indeed, with most interviews, there are no more than two interviewers in attendance.
Increasingly, more companies are staging group job interviews, not least that it gives an impression of how candidates perform in a team environment under pressure.
There are advantages and disadvantages of group interviews for candidates and the interviewer. This guide is on how to do well in group interviews. We look at what you might expect and give tips for group interviews, so you can get your personality to shine and stand out among the crowd. If you have navigated the phone interview and ready to shine in a group interview, here is where you get started.
What are Group Interviews?
A group interview consists of more than two people attending. Companies may conduct group interviews with a panel interviewing one candidate. The group might be a hiring manager, department leader, a representative from HR or a manager/team leader from the department relevant to the job.
When faced with a group of interviewers, some candidates may freeze, feeling overwhelmed by the level of scrutiny. The lead interviewer may not be apparent, so you’re unsure where to place your focus when answering or asking questions.
The other type of group interview is a selection of applicants applying for the same job together in one room. There may also be more than one interviewer and sometimes one or two observers making notes about candidates’ behaviour and responses.
Some group interviews may last a few hours to an entire day. If it’s the latter, anticipate that you may be required to participate in group and individual exercises. The success of group interviews depends on the capabilities of the recruiter or observer to correctly identify the most suitable candidates, and that’s not an easy task. That’s why it is vital to find a way to get noticed positively as soon as possible.
Preparing for Group Interviews
Firstly, accept that a panel or group interview is likely to be a stressful experience. In a panel interview, recruiters bombard you with questions from a group of unsmiling people. In a group interview, the constant observation can feel like you are a chimpanzee in a zoo. Either way may be unpleasant.
Secondly, the trick is understanding that the other candidates likely feel the same as you, and nervous people do different things. Some people display over-the-top behaviour, energetically pushing aside other less gregarious candidates. Other people may clam up, be unable to cope and become a wallflower for the entire process.
It’s worth mentioning the top 10 interview mistakes as avoiding them will give you a head start in the interview process.
Group interviews are a hard place for candidates to shine, but the following group interviews tips should help.
How to do Well in Group Interviews
Learn About the Company
Study the website, read the whitepaper and study company news and updates. Try to find the names and titles of the company leaders. The more information you gather and absorb, the better.
Never turn up late for an interview. If something untoward happens, such as your car breaking down or a train cancellation, always call the company to give them an estimated arrival time. Never leave it to chance that you can walk into the interview if you haven’t called ahead with a reason for your delay.
Prepare an Elevator Speech
At some point, the interviewers will ask questions, such as “why do you want this job?” or “why are you the best person for the job?”. Prepare your answers to take no more than 30-60 seconds. No waffling. Keep your response on point. Also, prepare an introduction speech about who you are, your experience and your suitability for the job.
Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact with recruiters and hiring managers is essential to show you are a confident person. However, refrain from a crazy-eyed fixed stare because that will make people feel uncomfortable.
If you’re in a panel interview, move your eye contact from person to person. It’s human nature to focus on the smiling, friendly person, but engaging with everyone on the panel is essential.
In a candidate group interview, engage with other candidates as if they are part of your team.
Check Your Body Language
In human psychology, most information we observe about others happens in seconds from subconscious observation of body language and micro-expressions. Give yourself a head start by practising the basics: –
- Posture: Stand or sit up straight but relaxed
- Smile: When appropriate
- Don’t cross legs or arms: Arms folded across the chest is a defensive, self-protecting response
- Nervous habits: If you bite your lip, chew your nails, or your leg bounces on the spot when tense, find a way to overcome these habits during an interview. Some people have a habit of touching their face or hair when nervous, and a skilled hiring manager will observe these tendencies
Be an Active Listener
Listen carefully to everyone involved in the interview. Demonstrate active listening skills by repeating or asking for clarification on a question or task details.
Breathe deeply and respond calmly when the attention is on you. In a candidate group interview, allow others to answer first. Listen to what they say and make your comment when appropriate.
Support Other Candidates
Showing support for other candidates is essential if you are applying for a team role. Interviewers will observe your collaborative and kind response to others, and here is where you can gain kudos over the big loud guy overtalking everyone in the group. Engage with the group, and add to their points if possible. Become the person in the room with whom everyone feels connected and forgets you are competing for the same job.
Be friendly with everyone, smile and engage warmly. Focus on the person talking without jumping ahead in your mind for the next thing you want to discuss.
Consider Your Questions Carefully
Try to resist firing random questions at the recruiters. Consider every question carefully before asking it calmly and diplomatically, and make sure it is relevant, in context with the exact moment and on point.
Lead with Respect
Often candidates confuse dominance with leadership. Hogging the limelight portrays selfishness and inconsideration of others. Let others finish their sentences without interruption.
Allow your natural personality to shine. Most companies want employees who bring warmth and positivity to the workplace. If you present your true self and they don’t like you, it wasn’t the right role for you, and another company will appreciate your attributes.
Be Confident and Relaxed
Even if you might need this job more than life, desperation is an unattractive human quality. If you can remain detached from the outcome, you will find it easier to be relaxed and confident, thus increasing your chances of getting further ahead in the interview process.
During the company research, perhaps you found something that didn’t provide an answer. Or you observed a company solution and wondered what drove the decision. Curious people tend to be better problem solvers, critical thinkers and positive team members.
Share Something Memorable
We have a natural human tendency to run with the pack. It’s an evolutionary survival instinct. However, doing what everybody else does in group interviews will not get you the job. Perhaps share something you are passionate about. For example, you may have a favourite cryptocurrency project and have a lot of knowledge. Or maybe you have a unique hobby or just got your black belt in Jiujitsu.
Share Your Accomplishments
Share relevant examples of your suitability for the job. Craft your answers in story format by showing the interviewers how you solved a problem in a previous role. Share only memorable stories, especially if it focuses on overcoming a serious challenge.
Prepare for Curveball Questions
Candidates expect typical interview questions like asking about a five-year plan, why you are the best for the job and what are your strongest and weakest points. However, hiring managers using modern interview techniques may ask unusual questions, such as, “what is the kindest thing you have ever done?” or “what’s the happiest moment in your life so far?”
Such questions can catch candidates off guard. Some people may waffle and say what they think the interviewer wants to hear. Others genuinely access their memories to find the answer and present a warm and engaging response. It’s an opportunity for the interviewers to catch a glimpse of the real person behind the persona.
If you have done sufficient research on the company, you may have a few ideas for solutions to existing problems. Be confident about sharing your findings and, ideally, with one or two potential solutions.
Conclusion: Group interviews: How to Stand out from the Crowd
If a company calls you to attend a group interview, refer to this guide as a resource for how to navigate a potentially tricky situation. Remember that the interviewers aren’t looking for the loudest or most dominant candidate.
Of course, hiring managers want candidates with the necessary skills. Still, they’re also looking for team players, candidates with good communication skills and someone who will positively add to the workplace culture.
Spending time researching the company is vital because many candidates forget this step. Suppose, during the interview, the recruiter poses a question about the company’s vision. If you are the only person who successfully answers the question, you immediately stand out as a person who puts in the extra effort. You might enjoy learning about the top 10 powerful answers to interview questions.
Finally, remember to upload your resume and have a chat with the CB Recruitment team about current vacancies.