Group interviews are your typical interview on maximum overdrive. The competition is so close you can see the whites of their eyes and the steam-pressed seams of their interview clothes. With that level of proximity, there are bound to be immediate comparisons between you and the other candidates. However, play your cards right and you won’t be any worse off than you would be in a one-on-one interview.
1.) Know the type of interview in advance – A typical interview can be intimidating, but nothing undermines confidence quite like an unexpected group interview. The surprise itself creates a psychological shock that doesn’t instantly fade away. As a precaution, always ask about the type of interview. It should be tacked on with other questions about the interview (i.e. location, time, dress code, required materials, etc.).
2.) Don’t act like the only person there – Other candidates should not be treated like the enemy during your group interview. Address them in conversation, make eye contact, shake hands, and treat them in the same amiable way you would any of the company’s employees. First impressions need to go down smooth like a refreshing glass of water; not like a caustic bottle of bottom-shelf liquor.
3.) Focus on what you offer – Going on the offensive is not the answer in a group interview. Certainly, you cannot afford to act like your responses exist in the relative vacuum of a one-on-one interview, but you also cannot appear too competitive.
Responses that undercut another candidate’s credentials or are tinged with a know-it-all attitude will sour your standing. As with any typical interview, you want to depict yourself as a turnkey solution to the problems facing the company.
4.) Build on what others say – A real boon of the group interview is that you can use others to remind you of your main talking points. Feel free to reference what others have said (no idea is off limits). Even more so than a typical interview, it’s important that you show yourself to be an attentive listener.
Moreover, keep in mind that employers often use the group interview to take your interpersonal skills on a test drive. Those who fall short don’t tend to get a call back.
5.) Follow up to keep from fading into the crowd – After the interview is over and you all go your separate ways, don’t let yourself fade into the horizon. Unlike a one-on-one interview, there are lots of people and impressions for employers to remember all at once.
Send a follow up message. Inside it, reiterate your qualifications and remind your interviewer what you said. And let the company know that you’re still interested. This extra nudge can send the other candidates toppling over and give you the job in the end.
by James Walsh