Group Interviews: Demystifying How to Behave and Get the Job

Group Interviews: Demystifying How to Behave and Get the Job

By: Daniel Steingold | July 31, 2016

Group interviews have become relatively common in recent years, partly because employers believe that they can help with gauging your teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills.

Companies also choose to conduct group interviews because they are cost-effective (they allow them to consolidate many separate interviews into one); fast; allow for streamlining; allow for some extent of job mimicking (a way of measuring performance and willingness to be part of a team); and provide a way to more easily compare candidates.

Group interviews also have many variations ranging from activities where the group is given a specific problem to collaboratively solve to a group interview followed by an individual interview.

It is important to distinguish the prototypical group discussion interview— consisting of three to seven people answering questions asked by the interviewer— from these other variations.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of clarity about protocol and conduct, many allow themselves to feel intimidated when it comes to participating in a group interview.

No need to worry, however. This post will guide you on how to ace your next group interview.

General Do’s and Don’ts

To start, let’s discuss general simple do’s and don’ts for group interviews.

  • Do demonstrate a positive attitude
  • Don’t put down other candidates
  • Do wait until your turn comes around to speak
  • Don’t dominate the discussion
  • Do be polite and not overly competitive with other candidates
  • Don’t come across as being aggressive or uncooperative
  • Do demonstrate critical thinking skills
  • Don’t withhold praise and appreciation for the ideas of others

These general guidelines apply to both group interview discussions and activities. The following sections will go into further depth about behaviors that can help ensure you do well during your interview.

Project Confidence

This point is particularly salient because while you want to be confident in your personal abilities, you don’t want to come off as being too self-absorbed.

If you appear to demonstrate a noticeable adverse reaction to your competition for the job, it makes you look ill prepared to deal with others effectively. Thus, in most cases, it is advisable to project a poker face.

It’s also important to engage your fellow interviewees while waiting for the interview to start; this not only shows the interviewer that you know how to network, but it helps demonstrate that you’re rife with confidence.

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By knowing other the names of other candidates, you are also able to answer questions more effectively.

For example, you can reference the answer of another candidate when answering an inquiry, or you can build off of the ideas of another candidate. Demonstrating this ability is vital as it shows that you are open to collaboration, can build off of established ideas, and have leadership qualities.

The same advice to be confident also applies to your tone while speaking. You should speak clearly and confidently, while making sure you don’t speak too quietly or let your voice trail off while talking.

Be Yourself

During interviews, it is all too easy to try to act how you think the interviewer would want you to be, or to force yourself to show qualities— such as leadership— that aren’t your strong suit.

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Interviewers can tell when someone is being disingenuous, so it’s important to be honest with yourself and others, while still showing your best side. You should also be careful to not force your opinions in the conversation at the expense of letting others speak.

You’ll often find that the loudest and boldest candidate does not get their way.

Don’t Be Rigid

This point means a few things in a group interview.

Due to the increased number of variables in a group interview— more people— it is important to not hold onto scripted responses during the interview. You need to be able to adapt what you say to what everyone else in the room will or has already expressed.

This also brings up the importance of listening. To truly listen to what others have to say is a skill that is often overlooked. Even outside of interviews and the workplace, a majority of our time engaged in conversation is dedicated to listening, and we have the capability to listen more efficiently than we can speak.

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Listening intently doesn’t mean being passive. If you get a thought while listening, write it down to articulate later.

A good way to show you’re listening to others is through body language. Nodding, smiling, having an open posture, and using verbal cues like “uh huh” and “yes” can help demonstrate that you’re fully engaged.

Show Appreciation

It is safe to say that if you don’t show appreciation for having been granted an interview, such as through a thank-you note, somebody else will.

In a thank-you note, you will want to make sure to highlight certain constructive parts of your interview that were memorable, whether it was an insight or joke.

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Ultimately, a group interview is meant to be more uncomfortable than a one-on-one interview in many respects, although they can be mastered with time, effort, and practice.

If there’s one thing you should take away, it’s that group interviews are almost as much of a test of your social skills and behavior as they are your actual qualifications.

It’s also important to note that you probably won’t have to endure two group interviews in the hiring process; they usually serve as initial interviews to weed out unqualified or undesired candidates.

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