What is a group interview? If you haven’t experienced it before, this is where you are brought in to interview alongside other potential candidates for the same position. This is different from a “panel interview” where you are the only candidate and are interviewing with a group of interviewers from the company.
Companies do this type of interview for a number of reasons. First of all, it saves time for busy hiring managers. It’s one of the fastest ways to see how adaptable you are and how well you can work with others in a team-like setting. It’s used a lot in positions where you’ll be interacting with customers a lot or in a customer service setting, like hospitality.
Not only is it an efficient way to interview and test your interpersonal skills, but it also lets the interviewer(s) see how you work under stress and simulates a work environment where you are solving actual problems the company may be facing.
So, how can you stand out from the crowd? Here are some tips to acing the group interview:
- Be prepared. Make sure you do your research about the company, have looked at the website, have some idea of who the interviewers are (check the “staff” and “about” page) and learn as much as you can about this position and the industry in general.
- Be yourself. While you want to stand out and make a good impression, don’t force it, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be genuine. Stay loose and let your personality shine through.
- Be friendly and polite. Don’t forget your manners… say please and thank you, don’t be pushy, say hello to your fellow candidates, and ask questions about them. Make conversation – this may come in handy during the interview.
- Show up early. This is an opportunity to meet the interviewers ahead of time, face-to-face, and to build a little rapport before everyone else shows up. If nothing else, it’s likely the hiring manager will remember you were early and eager.
- Listen carefully. Try not to zone out or be thinking about your next statement instead of actively listening to the interviewer or the other candidates. Pay attention so you can build on what’s being said, ask a “genius” question or offer additional thoughts or information. Try to remember everyone’s name and address them during the conversation. Use body language that shows you’re invested by nodding and leaning into the conversation.
- Show you’re a team player. Employers will be impressed when you show how you can help the team, how you fit in with the group, and support the ideas of others. Speak with authority and be sure to take turns with your input, but think and act like a leader. Be gracious, kind, and supportive while also showing off your expertise.
- Have an introduction prepared. Know what you plan to say when you are asked “tell me about yourself.” Make sure you address everyone in the group and give good eye contact to all participants. Cover the basics and include something that immediately sets you apart based on your experience, your background, or unique skill.
- Follow up. Be sure to send a thank-you note to all the interviewers that were present within one business day. Try to reference something specific from your conversation to spark their memory of you.
- Smile and nod a lot. Make sure you’re projecting a calm, collected personality and that you’re approachable and open.
What NOT to do in a group interview:
- Don’t dominate the conversation. It can be tempting to want to assert yourself, especially if you happen to know more than the other candidates, but you will come off as arrogant and unlikeable. And don’t interrupt or talk over the other candidates.
- Don’t fade in the background. The flip side of dominating the conversation is fading into the background. You want to be considerate, but you don’t want to become overwhelmed by everyone else. Don’t start talking by apologizing or making some self-deprecating remark.
- Not paying attention. You don’t want to be the person who repeats what others have already said or who is looking at his/her phone instead of listening. You may miss an important point or be left out of a discussion because you were zoning out or distracted.
- Having no questions prepared. During the Q & A portion, you don’t want to sit there with no questions to ask about the company, the industry, or this job. Make sure you do the work ahead of time so you aren’t blindsided and miss your chance to make a good impression.
Tips for success:
- Be friendly. It pays to be professional and polite to all the other candidates. Introduce yourself and be cordial.
- Show confidence. Speak clearly and make eye contact, sit up straight and avoid fidgeting.
- Be prepared. You won’t know the answer to every question you’ll be asked, but think about how you’ll talk about your experience, achievements, and skills.
- Be respectful. No matter who is speaking, give them your attention and don’t interrupt.
- Keep calm and network. Take this opportunity to show off your networking skills and be collaborative.
- Be yourself. Be confident that you’re the right person for the job. Focus on highlighting your strengths and not on “beating out” the other candidates.
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