Interviewing

How to Get Ahead in a Group Interview

In a group interview, you may find yourself interacting with a potential employer alongside other candidates as opposed to one-on-one. While you will use many of the same skills in a group environment, the dynamic requires you to employ some different strategies in order to make a positive impression on your potential employer. This article will show you how to get ahead in a group interview so you can get the job.

Why do employers interview in groups?

Employers may have a variety of goals when they choose to conduct a group interview, where one interviewer meets with several candidates. They often use this strategy to hire multiple candidates more quickly than they could with a series of one-on-one meetings. This is especially common in the retail and food service industries, when seasonal demand may require quickly hiring several new employees.

Panel interviews are another type of group interview and involve several interviewers meeting with a single candidate. The differing perspectives of the interviewers allow for a more in-depth understanding of the applicant. The panel generally consists of team members who frequently interact with the position you are applying for. Panel interviews are more common with higher-level positions and usually occur as part of a longer process, maybe after an initial one-on-one interview or a phone screening.

In both group and panel interviews, employers can see how you perform in a team dynamic or how you would act in practical workplace situations that require you to communicate and work effectively with others.

How to stand out in a group interview

Use the group dynamic to your advantage by following these steps:

1. Come prepared for the interview ahead of time

As you should in any interview, come prepared with effective answers to common interview questions. While you cannot anticipate all of the questions your interviewer will ask, you should feel confident talking about your previous professional experience, your education and your skill set. Make the most of each of your responses. For example, if you are asked about your previous professional experience, do not only describe the position, but also include some of your greatest accomplishments in the role.

Additionally, study as much as you can about the company and your interviewer as possible. Knowing the company’s values and why they are hiring can help make you a more appealing candidate. In a panel interview, knowing the various interviewers’ positions can reveal the perspectives and concerns that may inform the questions they will ask and the answers they hope to receive. 

2. Display confidence when you’re speaking and when you’re listening to other people

It may be easy for you to disappear into the background in a group setting, but a group interview presents a great opportunity to display your confidence among others. Exhibit confidence throughout the interview by speaking clearly and projecting strongly, sitting up straight, making eye contact and avoiding tics (such as playing with a pen, fidgeting, or playing with your hair), which may make you appear nervous. Be careful not to let your confidence seem like arrogance. Avoid interrupting people, but ensure that your responses to questions are clear and unique.

3. Adopt a leadership role during activities and discussions

Some group interviewers require interviewees to participate in a group activity, which will give you the opportunity to display your leadership abilities. This activity may take the form of a mock group project where you can adopt a leadership role over your team. Taking on leadership responsibilities does not mean that you subdue your teammates, but rather that you guarantee that the other interviewees are included and given tasks. Illustrate that you can lead and simultaneously function as part of a team. 

4. Be an engaged listener and respect others

Group interviews are a fantastic opportunity to display your active listening skills. Be engaged even if the interviewer is not currently addressing you. Look at the speaker and react to their comments. When possible, you can prove that you were listening by referring back to a previous comment. This will display to the interviewer that you can listen effectively, engage in a conversation and show respect to others, even when they are competitors for the same position. 

5. Interact with other candidates before, during and after the group interview

You may be tempted to maintain your motivation and confidence by silently reviewing your preparation before a group interview, but interacting with other candidates before it starts can display your confidence as well as your communication and interpersonal skills. When the interviewer arrives, he or she will quickly be able to see who is facilitating the conversation and who the effective communicators are.

You can continue to display your interpersonal skills throughout the interview. Combine communication with active listening to address other interviewees by name and even to reference comments made before and during the interview. Build off those comments with your own ideas and you will display your collaborative skills.

6. Follow up with the interviewer after

As with any interview, you should follow up afterward. Within 24 hours of the interview, send an email to your potential employer thanking them for the opportunity to interview and expressing your continued excitement for the position. Help the recipient remember who you were by referencing part of the interview discussion to which you contributed. 

Group interviews may present a unique set of challenges, but succeeding despite the group dynamic will make you that much more impressive to your potential employer. Rather than viewing your next group interview as an obstacle, use these strategies to turn it to your advantage.