Group interviews are becoming more common, and preparation is the key to success.
Whether you know about it ahead of time or find out when you walk through the door, a group interview is one of the trickier (and some would say scarier) ways to convince a company to hire you. However, armed with an understanding of how group interviews work and the right “just in case” preparation for this scenario, you can stand out from the other candidates and move forward in the hiring process.
What is a group interview?
What is a group interview, exactly? Well, it's when several candidates are interviewed at the same time by one or more recruiters, hiring managers, etc., and is generally used when a company needs to fill several positions in a short time period.
Food service and hospitality industries regularly use group interviews to evaluate candidates' abilities to stay positive and problem-solve without losing their cool. It's also a go-to method for retail organizations needing extra help for the holidays.
If you're not job searching in those areas, however, don't think you're off the hook. Many other business markets are now using group interviews both for the time and cost savings and the opportunity to evaluate how applicants act in a setting that challenges their leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. Some companies will give you a heads-up about the group interview, while others want to see how you react to an unexpected and sometimes tricky situation. That's why it's important to prepare yourself for this possibility.
Group interview preparation tips
Prepare for a group interview the same way you would for a one-on-one interview, with an emphasis on answering behavioral interview questions. In addition to providing your past work experiences, your skills that apply to the job, and your education, have ready examples of how you met a goal or succeeded in spite of challenges.
Once you complete this, go a step further: Anticipate working with a group on problem-solving simulations or mock work exercises and practice how you'll show off your interpersonal abilities and skill sets.
If you know ahead of time you'll be part of a group interview, ask for specific details, including the number of candidates who'll be in the group and the number of interviewers. Get interviewers' names and titles, if possible, to better understand their roles in hiring the right candidate. If you can't get this information before the interview, listen well during the interview introductions and jot down the information you get. In either case, use this knowledge to craft the best possible answers during the interview. Not only will you exceed expectations and show off your enthusiasm, but you'll also look like a star.
The do's and don'ts for a successful group interview
Group interview tips include following many of the same protocols as an individual interview, such as appearance, promptness, and confidence — but there are also some specific differences. Keep in mind that you're being evaluated not just on your job skills, but also on your ability to lead, work with a group, and handle conflict.
DO network before the interview. In other words, talk to everyone. Make friends, start conversations, and get to know things about your fellow candidates. If the interviewers are watching, it shows that you're not afraid to jump into a new situation.
DO be inclusive. When you answer a question, refer to something another candidate told you prior to the interview if relevant, using the person's name. Also, don't discount another's statement; build on it and behave professionally.
DON'T address just the interviewers. A group interview is meant to involve everyone who's there, both interviewers and candidates. Direct your answers to all present, not just the interviewers. Address other candidates by name when appropriate — it shows off your leadership skills.
DON'T speak more than you listen. Speak when you have something pertinent and new to offer, rather than repeating what someone else said just to be visible. Wait your turn and don't talk over others. It's what you say, not how loudly or repeatedly you say it, that gains points with interviewers.
DO follow up effectively. Send a thank-you note promptly after the interview. To help the interviewer distinguish you from everyone else, reference something that made you stand out, such as a great answer or how you enjoyed learning [state specific thing] about the company, the position, or another candidate.
“Typical” group interview questions
You'll be asked many of the same questions presented in a one-on-one interview, but here are four group interview questions that are generally asked:
Based on your knowledge of the other candidates here today, who would you hire and why?
If you saw a co-worker stealing something, what steps would you take?
What skills are most important for success in this position?
Tell us why you're the best fit for this job. (Implied here is “compared to the other candidates.”)
When answering these or any other questions, always be respectful. Use positive language to differentiate yourself from other candidates or to compare their skills with yours. Remember that in group interviews, less is always more. Be clear and concise.
A little extra thought and preparation can really show off your skills and get you successfully through a group interview — even if you weren't expecting it.
Not sure if you're ready for a group interview? Our TopInterview coaches can help you prepare.