Group interviews are popular with many companies, but a lot of job candidates with excellent interview skills find them difficult. Interviewing alongside several other candidates can be an uncomfortable experience, but there are strategies you can use to stand out.
Psychology of the Group Interview
Group interviews allow hiring managers to see how candidates interact with others. This is often a better test of a person’s intangible skills than a traditional interview, in which the environment is very controlled. Group interviews challenge you to form relationships with peers and act as part of a team, while also requiring you to find quick ways to make your presence known without being overbearing. At the same time interviewers are looking to you for answers, they are also scanning the room to see how the group dynamic shifts in a positive or negative way.
This type of job interview is stressful for a whole lot of psychological reasons, but you won't have time to analyze each and every person, statement or detail in depth. Therefore it's critical that you master your own psychology and self-awareness so that you can control your emotions and your behavior when you're feeling stressed.
The Group Interview Mindset
To perform at a high level in a group interview, you must be ready to listen to the other candidates as well as putting forward your own ideas. Interviewers are looking for people who have good communication skills, which means they want someone who can take other people’s contributions and run with them as well as express their own unique concepts and advocate for them to be implemented. Approach a group interview with the intention of being assertive — speaking up when you have something to say — but don’t fall into the trap of being overly aggressive toward the other candidates. Conversely, being passive and quiet is also a poor group interview strategy.
Group Dynamics and First Impressions
If you arrive at a job interview to find that other candidates are present, try to make connections. You don't have to become besties, but you also shouldn't be afraid to be friendly and warm to your competition. If you have time with other candidates before the interview, introduce yourself and ask your peers questions to help you get to know them. Facilitating conversation in this way will showcase you as a friendly team player to the interviewers.
Remember people’s names and use them during the interview, and try to involve the other candidates as much as you can while responding to the interviewers’ questions. For example, you could say “It sounds like Chris has a lot of experience that is relevant to this situation, and I'd love to hear his take, but in my experience I...” as a way of helping another candidate speak up. This behavior shows you playing the role of a good leader and facilitator without deferring the answer to another candidate and shying away from the question.
Finding Balance is Key
Job interviews can be intimidating. But when you walk into an interview to discover there are multiple candidates being interviewed together, a group interview can be horrifying! Striking a balance is critical to your success. You may only have the floor in a group interview setting for a few minutes and you'll need to find ways to show that you're knowledgeable and confident without being rude or a know-it-all.
While it's hard to find ways to practice for this type of situation, defer to your own social skills and group interactions and always be authentic to who you actually are. In the end, a group interview can be a terrific way to gauge if the opportunity is truly the best fit for your career at this time.