How to succeed at group interviews

Over the last three weeks, we’ve taken a look at how to approach telephone interviews, video interviews and interview presentations.

Today we look at group interviews.

It’s important to understand why people use this type of interview and, in our experience, there are two main reasons:

  • Time Saving – employers can asses 3, 4 or more candidates in around the same time it takes to do a single interview.
  • Team Work – if the role requires team work then group interviews can be a good way to assess how you will interact with others

With these in mind, we take a look at how you can stand out in a group interview situation.

 

Introduce Yourself

If you are sat in a waiting room with the other candidates, make sure you make friends with them. It would be easy to sit there and size them up as your competition, but if you have already broken the ice then interacting will be much easier during any group conversations in the interview.

Being friendly (and remembering people’s names) can set you apart as being a leader within the group which is very important – we will talk more about that later.

 

Listen Up

This is very, very important.

There will likely be a point in the interview when a question is posed and the interviewer goes round the group for an individual answer. If you have to wait, it’s easy to sit and worry about what to say.

We suggest that you listen very carefully to what the others are saying.

This will mean that you don’t repeat the same answers but, more importantly, you can mention what other people have said and build on it. This will show you as a team player, a listener and a thinker. For example:

Q. How would you cope if one of our clients was contacting us with an emergency?

A. As Kim mentioned, I think the most important thing here would be to listen to the situation and get as much detail as possible on what the issue is. What I would also do is to ask the client if a similar situation had occurred before and how it was resolved. When that was done, I’d make sure I communicated the message clearly to the team – they may have experienced something similar in the past and be able to help.

Use what other people have said to your advantage and don’t be afraid to agree with people. Trying to find flaws in what people have said will make you look aggressive and unfriendly. Building on what other’s have said will make you look like a thoughtful team player.

 

Be Memorable

Using the above technique, you can also make sure that you don’t give generic answers.

For example, if you are asked about what you know about the company and everyone gives an overview of the products/services or the size of the company then you can steer clear of repeating the rest of the group.

Before the interview, make sure you have looked in advance at a variety of channels, for example.

Do they have a large, loyal following on one specific social media channel?

Do they have any community based or charitable initiatives?

It’s important to give unique answers so make sure your knowledge of the company, your understanding of the role and your examples of previous work can be tailored to stand out from the rest.

 

Take The Lead

For some people, this can be difficult and seem unnatural.

But within the group, the interviewer will be looking for someone who is capable of taking control without being rude or forceful. If there is a group discussion for example, you should be entirely comfortable in driving the conversation forward or onto a slightly different topic.

If you raise a new idea, take ownership of it and engage with others about it – if the other candidates continue to discuss your point then the interviewer won’t forget who introduced it to the group.

Often there will be some form of group task or challenge. If there are set roles within the group, make sure you put your hand up and volunteer. You could volunteer to present the group findings, to keep track of what is being discussed or to do a hands on task.

Pick something you are comfortable with but make sure you give yourself an important role.

 

Play Nice

You were told this as a child and it’s still true today. Make sure you interact with and are friendly towards all the other candidates.

Nothing will leave a worse impression than someone who interrupts, argues with or generally undermines the others.

That’s not to say you can’t disagree, but do it with a purpose. Use phrases like ‘I think I would approach it this way’ or ‘it would also be important to think about’.

But what if someone disagrees with you?

It’s easy to react and take it personally, but as we already said, make sure you listen. You can respond to their point but make sure if you have listened carefully to what they say and have taken it on board.

If you believe someone is deliberately trying to undermine you (we’ve all seen this on ‘The Apprentice’!) then do not rise to it. Make your point clearly, stand by it and/or develop it and then leave the other person to respond. An aggressive, overbearing person will lose out to a thoughtful, patient candidate like you.

 

Speak With Purpose

With everyone trying to get themselves noticed, make sure you speak with a clear purpose. A few generic, waffly statements made early on in the interview will mean the interviewer (and the rest of the group) are less likely to seek your opinion on matters later in the interview.

Listen, think, speak (and speak clearly).

 

Say Thank You… to Everyone

At the end of the interview, it would be easy to just say goodbye to the interviewer. Of course, that is very important, but they will also notice if you are friendly with the others.

If you can be friendly and say thank you to someone who has been challenging your ideas, that will show you as a mature and cooperative person.

Of course, it’s not easy to say thank you to someone who has been deliberately difficult, but we hope that you don’t have to face anyone like that!

 

Thanks for reading this post – we hope that this article (along with the others mentioned at the top) have provided you with all the help you need to handle these unexpected types of interviews.

As we tell all our candidates, the interviewer wants you to be brilliant and to show your best side – that is no different in group, telephone, video or presentation style interviews.

No two interviews are the same and no matter the type, we wish you the best of luck.

 

Chris Woodward

Former Marketing & Communications Executive at Morgan Jones Recruitment Consultants
Chris started out his marketing career in event marketing, helping organise some of the country's biggest exhibitions and business fairs. Chris came to Morgan Jones in 2018 helping transform our marketing and brand.

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