How to Ace a Group Interview

More and more employers are using group interviews to help make their final selection. Here’s how to emerge as THE candidate.

A group interview occurs whenever there is a team of two or more interviewers who each participate in the same job interview at the same time.

Why employers use group interviews: Group interviews are a best practice of an employer’s talent selection process because:

a. Each interviewer views the same performance at the same time, and can better discuss a specific candidate.

b. By design, group interviews can be more in-depth, because multiple interviewers can ask follow-on questions.

c. Having all interviewers participate in the same interview means that the same question won’t be asked by each interviewer, making it more efficient.

d. Employers can come to a quicker consensus on a candidate, especially when they interview multiple candidates the same day.

Some employers use group interviews for finalists for a position, while others use group interviews for candidates positively flagged after one or more phone interviews. Group interviews may be formal in that questions are scripted ahead of time and specific interviewers are assigned to ask questions in certain areas. Conversely, sometimes group interviews are more relaxed and conversational in an effort to get to know the candidate, and how well an individual would fit within a team.

Preparing for a group Interview. Participating in a group interview need not increase the pressure you experience in an interview if you are well prepared. In fact, feel honored that so many of the employer’s people are giving you their undivided attention! In addition to all of the best practices associated with effective interviewing, use these best practices to help you prepare for a group interview:

a. At the time the interview is scheduled, ask if your interview will be with one or several interviewers, or if the employer will use a group interview.

b. Get the name and role of each interviewer ahead of time so that you can research them in advance of your interview.

i. Based on the specific role of each interviewer, think of the questions he or she might ask you – this will help you better prepare your answers.

ii. Also use your preparation time to develop your questions for each interviewer based on their role.

Participating in a group interview. There are several best practices to follow:

a. Bring your list of interviewers to the interview; number or letter each person for easy identification. At the interview, map out the seating chart and identify (by list number or letter) who is sitting where. Ditto if collecting their business cards. That way you’ll be able to respond by name to each person who questions you.

b. Use the interviewer’s name occasionally and smile at them when answering their questions as this will continue to establish rapport. Of course, make sure that the individual’s name is correctly pronounced!

c. Note the function of each interviewer so you can tailor your responses to apply to the interviewer’s area of responsibility, as well as other functions. Demonstrating a cross-functional awareness will be viewed as positive.

d. Rotate your eye contact in a group interview. Avoid focusing on just your questioner when answering his or her questions. Maintain eye contact with the questioner about twice as much as with the other interviewers, and rotate your eye contact so that you are speaking to all interviewers in the group for each answer you provide.

e. Don’t assume one interviewer is more important than the others. Treat all with the same measure of respect and level of eye contact. Avoid focusing more on the person you believe might be the highest decision maker, as this may cause others with whom you don’t maintain comfortable eye contact to feel slighted.

f. Be aware of your body language! In a group interview situation you may feel more pressure, especially if an interviewer seems to focus on one area. Without thinking you may telegraph your discomfort and model a more closed body language. The appropriate use of humor may break the tension and demonstrate you are a person who can handle pressure situations well.

g. Tell stories to illustrate how you delivered tangible, measurable, and impactful results, especially ones that would be of interest to the different interviewers based on their area of responsibility. And make sure your answer provides an example or two that quantifies your accomplishments.

Group interviews need not be intimidating if you’ve taken the necessary steps to prepare for the interview, then practiced your answers, their delivery, and confident body language.

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools, the Job Search Readiness Assessment for experienced professionals/skilled workers and Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for students/recent grads both assess and explain over 3,000 career and job search best practices. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.

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