Standing out – Tips for group interview success
Sam Wilson, October 29, 2014
The prospect of a group interview can be a daunting one, you will likely be more familiar with the traditional one-to-one interview system and straying from this formula may unsettle you.
First thing’s first, relax! If you approach it properly and thoughtfully then there is no reason that your group interview needs to be a source of unnecessary stress or worry. Instead it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and stand out in a group.
There are a number of reasons that an organisation might decide to carry out a group interview.
Group interviews can save considerable time and money as it allows the interviewers to see multiple candidates in the same time that they may have only been able to see 1. In an effective group interview, the best candidates will stand out from the crowd, achieving in a couple of hours what might have taken a whole day or even more if a different approach had been taken.
Due to the different nature of a group interview, they allow the interviewer to test skills in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a one-to-one or panel interviewer. A candidate might say that they work well as part of a team but placing them in a team situation puts this to the test. A candidate might claim to have strong leadership skills however if when placed in a group they fade into the background then this may well not be the case.
Activities used in group interviews allows interviewers to test your knowledge and understanding of the role, organisation and industry. It is easy to learn a few facts and then quote them in a one-to-one interview, however a group interview can test the practical application of knowledge which is a lot more difficult.
If you haven’t had a group interview you may well be unfamiliar with some of the activities that you will be expected to take part in.
Many group interviews will involve a role playing activity of some form, this might involve being presented with a situation that you might encounter in the workplace and asked to discuss or even act out how you would approach it.
Role playing activities serve to test your understanding of the workplace you will be part of, the role that you will take and the situations you will be faced with. These activities are also very effective in demonstrating communication skills, how collaborative you can be and the role you take in a group. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and make yourself heard however it is essential that you allow others to speak as well and do not interrupt anyone. If it feels appropriate to take charge of the discussion then this can be a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills however if you do so then you must encourage others to contribute in a positive manner, if you are seen to be taking the opportunity to embarrass or sabotage others then this will reflect very badly on you.
It is also likely that you will be presented with a group activity completely unrelated to a work situation, if in a large group you might be split into smaller teams and the activity could be turned into a competition. I once had a group interview in which we were split into teams and asked to build a free-standing tower using paper and sellotape. The team who could build the tallest tower that stood by itself in the time given was the winner.
With these types of activity it is not necessarily all about the winner. These activities will test your ability to work as part of a team in a pressurised situation, it will also test the method that you take in solving problems and your ability to listen to others and take on suggestions. In my group interview with the paper tower building activity each group took a different approach, one group was dominated by one person who decided they knew exactly how it should be done, another group spent two-thirds of the time arguing over the correct method. In my group we quickly gave those who had an idea the opportunity to explain it, we then took a vote on what we thought the best idea was and then went about putting it together. At the end of the allotted time, our tower stood tall and we stood triumphant.
Things to remember
A group interview is obviously a competitive situation however the best way that you can stand out in a positive way is by being friendly and co-operative with your fellow interviewees. Doing so will demonstrate a positive personality that you would bring into the workplace, no-one wants to employ anyone who appears disruptive, malicious or generally unpleasant to those around them.
To take advantage of the time that they have, it is likely that your interviewers will be observing you from the moment you arrive. It is therefore important that you are on form the minute you walk through the door, make sure that you are properly presented and be friendly and chatty to those already there, it will be noticed. It should go without saying but it is also essential that you are on time, you don’t want the first observation to be you hurrying through the door after the interview has already started.
You might be tempted to take a lead role in all activities that you take part in however this is not necessarily advisable. Whilst it will be beneficial to demonstrate your leadership skills, you don’t want to appear domineering. Take your opportunity if it arises and then let someone else have their chance, rest assured that your contribution will have been noticed.
All that’s left is to wish you luck! Group interviews may seem daunting however they should be viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate skills that you might not be able to show in a more traditional interview. Approach it positively, be proactive, contribute and allow others to do the same, you’re going to be great!