How to shine in a group interview

Group interviews will see your skills put to the test along with those of several other candidates. As a result, you’ll need to make sure you do everything you can to stand out from the crowd.

More than ever before, organisations are using group interviews to find their ideal candidate. Interviewing a group of people – instead of conducting individual interviews – has many advantages for employers. Firstly, a group situation allows them to better benchmark a cohort of candidates and reduces the chances of making a bad hire. What’s more it means that they don’t have to spend hours and hours performing interviews – they can see all their potential candidates in one go.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, group interviews allow employers to see what individual candidates can really do when put under pressure to perform in a situation that mirrors an everyday working day.

David Clift, HR Director StepStone said:

“Group interviews give employers the chance to really take people out of their comfort zone and see what they can do in competitive and pressure situations. They’re looking for people who are confident in their own ideas; can communicate clearly with other people; and make solid contributions to a group in order to get a task completed to a high quality. This form of interview also allows them to spot natural leaders among a cohort.”

The group interview tips below have been designed to help you better prepare for a group interview and ensure that you make the right contributions when in this style of interview situation – helping you stand out from the crowd.

What is a group interview?

Group interviews can take a number of forms. Candidates may be asked to take part in work simulation exercises. These rely on role play within the group and try and emulate the working environment of the employer.

In addition, some group interviews will see people placed into different groups in order to perform tasks which will test their problem-solving skills. Often these tasks can see each group presenting their findings or ‘solution’ to the other groups in the process.

During all group interview activities, interviewers will be closely assessing each individual’s contribution and performance within their group – similar to how Claude and Karren assess individuals in The Apprentice.

How to prepare for a group interview?

Like any other interview, preparation could be the difference between getting through group interview exercises with flying colours or feeling disappointed with yourself after. Take the time to prepare for your group interview in the following ways:

  • Try and find out as much as possible about your group interview tasks (if possible)

As this may be the first time you’ve done a group interview, try and find out as much as you can about the format of the interview. You may not get the answers that you need, but it’s always worth asking.

For instance, you could maybe find out what the group assessment will consist of – problem-solving tasks, work simulation tasks etc. Also, ask the employer for any tips about preparing for the interview. Even if they can’t give you specific details, they can probably point you in the right direction.

  • Prepare some questions and insight into the company you’re interviewing for

Preparation is all about giving yourself thinking space in an interview situation. As you’re going to be in a group session, preparation is perhaps even more important as you’ll be up against stiff competition in the same room.

As a starter for ten, you should research the company you’re interviewing for. Some of this research could perhaps come in useful in the group tasks you’ll be given. Weaving in some of your insight into some of the tasks will certainly get you noticed by your assessors. Make sure you know what the company does, and their current position and niche in the market.

  • Always prepare an ice breaking introduction

As you’ll be in a group, it’s extremely likely you’ll have to introduce yourself to the group. Instead of turning up to the session and thinking on your feet, why not prepare a few lines which give your group and assessors a clear understanding of who you are, your experience and why you’d like to get the job. Obviously, you may need to tailor this introduction based on what information you’re asked to provide in the interview, but it’s always better to have something prepared so you can show yourself in the best light.

Group assessment interviews – the ‘Dos’ and the ‘Don’ts’

To help you stand out from the crowd; assert your position in the group without being too dominant; and show your assessors why you should get the job, we’ve put together the below dos and don’ts:

DO – Be punctual to your interview

This is perhaps an unspoken rule when it comes to interviews, but ensure you turn up slightly earlier. In fact, turning up early to a group assessment can actually give you an advantage. Firstly, it allows you to suss out the competition as they arrive – allowing you to talk to them in a less formal setting before the assessment takes place. Also, it shows your assessors that you are reliable and punctual – it also shows your taking the process seriously.

DON’T – Be a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking in the group

The beauty of the group interview is that it helps assessors to weed-out candidates who are under confident – after all they want employees who are proactive and passionate in their approach to everyday tasks. Although you may be nervous, failing to speak up and offer valid points could look negative.

You should consciously monitor your own contribution to group discussions and presentations. Ensure that you get your points across concisely and show assessors that you are capable of making a valid contribution to the group.

DO – Be inclusive when it comes to group tasks

Unfortunately, there will always be people who will try to dominate group discussions. As a result, you’ll have to work hard to try and get your voice hear. However, you can also use this situation to your advantage by not only speaking up yourself, but also inviting other people to make a contribution too – particularly those that are struggling to be heard.

This will show your interviewers that you are a collaborative team player who also has good perceptions when it comes to the emotional intelligence needed in some social situations.

DON’T – Talk over people

Since school, we’ve always been told to never talk over people – it’s considered the height of rudeness. In a group situation, we can sometimes let our emotions and enthusiasm get the better of us when it comes to getting our point across. This is a big no-no when it comes to the group interview. You’ll be viewed as extremely uncooperative and dominating if you talk over people in this situation.

DO – Listen to others   

As the Dalia Lama famously said: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” This is certainly great advice when it comes to group interviews. Faced with pressure from competition, we all have a tendency to speak for the sake of saying something – this being hugely magnified in a group interview. However, you need to reign in this habit and take time to listen to others in the group too. By listening, you may find that you’re better prepared to make a contribution yourself which will have resonance with the entire group and your assessors. A poorly thought through contribution will reflect badly on you and your ability to comprehend things.

DON’T – Try to be someone you’re not

One of the biggest reasons for conducting group interviews is for assessors to get an idea of your personality when under pressure. Although you need to ensure you stand out in the group, you shouldn’t be someone you’re not either. As the old adage goes ‘just be yourself’. Your interviewers will quickly spot someone who is trying to fake it, or are being insincere in their interactions with others.

DO– retain your politeness at all times

Meeting other people in a group interview can be fun and help to relieve any nerves – particularly if there are candidates you click with straightaway. However, you’ve got to be careful you don’t slip into informality. Always ensure you remain polite, attentive to other’s ideas and respectful of the formal nature on the session. Remember this is an interview, not a social gathering.

Group Interview questions

As with all forms of interview, you can expect to have questions thrown at you by the interviewers. There’s no exception just because you’re in a group based setting. Questions may be directed to you as an individual or asked of the whole group.

Going into the interview, it might be handy to have a think about the following questions. Although your group task will largely dictate your response, having an idea about what you might be asked will certainly give you a head start.

1. Do you think the team was successful in completing the task? If so, why?
2. What do you think led to your group’s success in completing the task?
3. What do you think you would have done differently last time?
4. What was your individual contribution to the task?
5. How do you think other team members would describe you?
6. What challenges did the group face in achieving success?

The secret to the group interview is getting a balance between making yourself stand out from the crowd without alienating or trying to overshadow other candidates. By preparing thoroughly; following the tips above, and thinking about some of the questions you may be asked, you’ll be on the right path to interview success.