Interviews are stressful at the best of times. However, this stress increases when faced with the necessity of interviewing in a group. Traditional interviews, although nerve racking are not too difficult to prepare for but most of us have no idea what we would be faced with in a group interview which makes it much harder. Therefore, this guide aims to demystify the group interview process so that you that at least know what to expect and what you need to do to shine.
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What is a Group Interview?
A group interview is almost like a real-life incarnation of TV programme, The Apprentice. All candidates will interview at once, so that the employer can compare them, see how they work in a team and see how they cope under pressure.
Much like The Apprentice, candidates may be asked to complete a series of tasks or activities or take part in a group discussion.
There are Two Main Types of Group Interview:
- The Panel Interview- This is more discussion based, a panel of the company’s employees will chair a group discussion, asking individual questions and putting some to the entire group. The interviewers want to see which candidates are memorable.
- The Project Interview- This is a more hands on type of interview. Candidates may be split up into groups and asked to complete a task, this could be anything from putting together a group presentation to putting up a tent. What the interviewers are looking for is evidence of leadership skills, communication skills and the ability to work well in a team.
Who uses Group Interviews?
Many different types of companies may use a group interview process. It is a cost and time effective way of interviewing which also allows employers to see how well candidates interact with one another.
It is often used when hiring for jobs that require a high level of customer interaction or working within a close knit team. It may also be used when hiring more than one member of staff at a time or even an entire team at once.
How to Ace Them:
As with every interview, make sure you know all the details of the job and some background information about the company. This is doubly important because you are being directly compared to a roomful of other candidates. It is also important to make sure you know what is going on in the sector and in the news more generally at the time of the interview as they may ask you to discuss these issues.
Don’t be aloof with the other candidates, chances are the employer is interviewing in a group because he wants to see how you interact with others. Be friendly and sociable and this will show them that you are comfortable talking and working with other people.
Be Confident and Stand Out:
Interviewing in a group is tricky because you really need to get yourself noticed. You cannot be shy and hide behind others, if you want to get the job. Speak assertively, use detail and tell interesting stories if asked about your past. Just try and ensure that the interviewers remember you.
But Be Considerate:
Don’t take control of every conversation, don’t talk over people or cut them off and don’t directly contradict people. As far as possible, try and build on what other people have said, for example “I think that is a good point but what about….”. Addressing people by name and referencing their ideas and opinions will also come across well and will help to back up your points. Finally, try to include the shyer members of the group, encourage them to talk and praise their ideas because this will really show the employer that you are leadership material.
It can be very tempting to jump in with your ideas and opinions at every opportunity but take the time to listen to the responses of others and to understand the direction of the conversation. Listening to the questions that the employers put to other candidates can also help you to understand what exactly they are looking for and then you can tailor your answers to meet these requirements.
This is hugely important as with every interview, don’t lie or act phoney or condescending towards the other candidates. Just be yourself, answer questions honestly (within reason), treat the rest of the group how you would normally treat your friends and colleagues and the interviewers will definitely see the best version of you. Don’t force yourself to be a leader or to drive the conversation because it may very well backfire. It may not look comfortable for you and may lead you to put down others, something which is not attractive in future employees.
Finally make sure you thank the interviewer warmly at the end of the interview and follow up with a thank you note saying how nice it was to meet them. This will make you stick in their mind and you really don’t want to be the only person in the group that did not do it. It will also express your interest in that company and proves that you were interested in the job they were offering.
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What Types of Questions to Expect:
The questions for group interviews may very often be the same as those put candidates in traditional interviews except that their answers will be compared with those of the other candidates. They may be questions about the role, your previous jobs or more abstract questions that will help them to understand your personality.
Typical questions may include:
- What particular asset do you bring to this company?
- What makes good customer service?
- What would you do if you caught another employee stealing?
- Describe yourself in three words.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What animal would you be and why?
- How many chickens will you eat in a lifetime?
- Tell us a joke.
You may also be asked questions that relate to a group activity or task:
- How would your team members describe you?
- What was your contribution to this task?
- What made this team work successfully?
- Who would you hire from this group?
- What challenges did this task pose?
Types of Activity to Expect:
A Discussion Group-
You may be split into groups and asked to discuss an issue of current significance. In preparation for this, it is a good idea to catch up on the main news stories prior to the interview. E.g. An educational organisation - Do you think the government should provide free university education and why?
A Case Study/ Presentation-
Groups may be given a case study to read and reflect on. This may be related to the work that the company does. They may then be asked to put together a brief report or presentation on their findings, much as they would if employed. E.g. An estate agent - read the fact sheet about this house that has recently come up for sale and put together a presentation to convince a customer to buy it.
A Practical Exercise-
Often as an ice break or to see how well candidates gel as team, companies may ask groups to complete a practical task. E.g. Make a tower from paper, pins and straws, or Build a bridge from lego.
A Leaderless Task-
Groups of candidates may be asked to reach a decision on a particular ‘case’ or form a compromise between various different briefing documents. No leader is appointed because the interviewers want to see how the group organises itself and who tends to take control. E.g. A financial company - Each person has been given a different possible forecast for the performance of five funds over the next five years. Together you must figure out how best to invest £100,000 of a client’s money between these five funds.
A Task with Designated Roles-
This task will be fairly similar to the one above except that individuals within the team are designated certain roles to see how different people cope being leader or follower.