How to Impress in a Group Interview
A group interview is an efficient technique used by some companies to save time. If they have more than one job vacancy to fill, such as for Christmas temps in the retail industry, the most economic way for them to screen multiple candidates is by interviewing them all at once. It’s the first step on the screening process (of course, if you succeed, you’re likely to have an interview by yourself). Tactics used during group interviews mostly consist of problem solving and team building; they’re looking to see how you achieve goals under pressure, how you work within a team, and how you stack up next to the other candidates. This can be, however, a pretty intimidating type of interview for many job seekers. Not only do you have to make a good first impression, but you also have to stand out from the rest of the candidates. If you have an interview coming up and you’re feeling a little afraid about what’s to come, this article gives you tips on how to impress at a group interview.
First and foremost, dressing professionally for your interview is the first step to success. Even more so in a group interview. Here, you need to stand out from the rest of the candidates. If you’re wearing a creased shirt and have a major case of bed hair, you will stand out from the others… but not for the reasons you want to. Make sure you prepare your interview outfit the night before; choose smart trousers, a shirt, a tie and blazer, or a business-appropriate skirt with a blouse. Iron your clothes the night before, then set your alarm with plenty of time the following morning. Make sure your shirt is tucked in, your hair is tamed, and you aren’t wearing makeup that’s too heavy.
Practise interview questions and prepare answers
As with a solo interview, it’s important to rehearse interview questions for a group interview. However, the questions asked in this scenario will be somewhat different to a standard interview. The interviewer won’t have time to go around the circle quiz each candidate about their CV; they aren’t assessing your work experience, but your problem solving skills instead. Instead, group interview questions usually consist of hypothetical scenarios, team building challenges, and role playing (note: questions will differ from company to company). The interview will usually begin with some form of ice-breaker question so that you can all get to know one another. This will be the interviewer’s first impression of you. An introductory question, or task, could be along the lines of: ‘Discover five facts about the person next to you, then report your findings back to the group’.
This question may not seem particularly important, but it tests your communications skills, listening skills, and your competence in quickly acquiring information. Additionally, the interviewer is looking for individuality. For this reason, you should prepare answers to this question prior to the interview. Instead of reeling out similar facts to everyone else, think of some fun and creative facts about yourself that are appropriate for an interview. Similarly, you should practise a short and interesting introduction about yourself; you may be asked to introduce yourself instead of another person. Aside from the ice-breaker question, other group interview questions and tasks could include: ‘Sell us this product’, ‘Choose three celebrities that you would invite to your dinner party’, ‘If a customer complained to you about X, how would you resolve it?’ and ‘Build us X using Lego bricks’. Some of these assignments may seem a little random, but they’re all carefully chosen by the interviewer to assess your teamwork skills, resourcefulness, ability to focus and listen, and persuasion skills.
If you already know the drill, at the end of an interview you’ll be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. This is a great opportunity for you to stand out from the others; do a lot of research on the company before the interview, then plan some relevant, intelligent and thoughtful questions to ask them (not ‘Will I get a lunch break?’). If your questions have been answered during the interview, don’t ask something for the sake of it. It’s better to remain quiet than say something silly!
Arrive to the interview early
Usually, arriving on time to your interview is enough to impress. But this isn’t a normal interview. To stand out at a group interview, you must make sure that you arrive to the interview early. We’re not saying that you have to arrive an hour before the interview to be the first one there, that’ll just look strange. Arrive with enough time to sit down and get settled in reception. Your performance is monitored from the moment you step foot in there, so you’ll give yourself extra time to make a great impression. As a bonus, you’ll also have time to get comfortable with the other candidates.
Be aware of your body language
Your body language can give away more about you than what you say. To let the interviewer know that you’re focussed, enthusiastic and interested, make sure that you’re sitting up straight. Slouching will make you look like you don’t really care about the job up for grabs. It’s okay to relax in an interview – you don’t want to look like a robot – but try not to become too informal.
Demonstrate your ability to work in a team
Teamwork is one of the most important skills for an employee to have. Well, for a company conducting a group interview, anyway. The point of an interview may be to advertise yourself, but you must be able to demonstrate that you can work with others. For this reason, it’s important that you include other members of the group in activities. Voice your opinions, but welcome others to voice theirs too. That in itself demonstrates fantastic leadership qualities. Try not to interrupt other candidates or talk over them while they’re making a point – you won’t look like a team player.
Don’t be intimidated by the other candidates
Although you shouldn’t be too forceful with your opinions, you also don’t want to sink into the background of the group. It can be a little tricky to find a happy medium between the two, but you don’t want the other candidates to stand out more than you. If a few of the other candidates are particularly loud or controlling during tasks, try not to be intimidated by them. In some ways, extroverts can find it easier to make themselves the centre of attention, but you deserve your moment in the spotlight too. If they’re making a lot of points in response to a question, jump in there with an alternate view. If you open up a discussion, it’ll look like you have initiative.
Remain polite and professional throughout
It’s easy to relax as the interview goes on. You’ve spent a little time with the other candidates and the interviewer, and the surroundings are becoming a bit more familiar. Relaxing during an interview is good, but you must remember to remain polite at all times. No matter how comfortable you become with the other people in the room, this is still an interview. Don’t swear, use vulgar language or get aggressive when you don’t get your way; that’ll only repel the interviewer. Don’t chat to the other candidates about a great show you’re watching on Netflix or how amazing the Switch is – that’s a conversation for another time, in another environment. Remain focused on the task at hand.
Don’t speak for the sake of speaking
It’s important to be heard, that’s a given. But that’s if you have anything intelligent or relevant to add. The interviewer isn’t looking at how much you’re talking during the interview, but at the quality of the things you do say. Really listen to what the interviewer and the other candidates have to say, then generate a well-thought-out point in response to that. Think before you speak.
Accept criticism and show you can learn from it
Being criticised is part of life – but it’s not always a bad thing. Criticism helps us learn and grow as people, and the same applies to group interviews. Accepting criticism shows the interviewer that you’re willing to listen to others to understand their opinion, or look for an alternative way of doing something. Interviewers know that no-one’s perfect. Instead, they’d prefer it if you admitted your mistakes and demonstrated to them that you’re willing to learn from them. Don’t get defensive.
Don’t copy others; use your initiative
Above all, employers want to see that their employees have initiative. In other words, they don’t want to have to hold your hand the whole time you’re there. If you just agree with what the other candidates have to say and copy their opinions because you’re not confident in your own, you’ll look like you lack leadership skills and the ambition to succeed. On top of that, they won’t remember you. The most important thing to be in a group interview is yourself. Don’t copy the other candidates; what you think they’re doing correctly could actually be the wrong thing. Instead, try to use your own initiative. Answer questions how you would, and let your unique personality shine through.