Interviews are nerve wracking enough when it’s just you and the interviewer. Now imagine turning up to find all your competition sitting in the waiting room. This is the scenario for the group interview.
These interviews are wildly different to the other types of interviews you will face. You will be asked to do different things than in a face to face interview and will have to act differently to ensure success.
This type of interview is very useful for companies as it allows them to see all the applicants in one day than spend several hours over several days interviewing people one by one. They can also watch you from behind the scenes and assess how you react to being part of a team, how quick thinking you are and how you handle yourself under pressure.
The stakes and pressure of this situation is almost too much to bear. Luckily, you have prepared for this (you’re reading this blog after all!).
Note: Some people call an interview where it’s just you and a group of interviewers a “group interview”. We disagree and call this a “Panel Interview” which we will talk about in more detail in another blog.
First things First
Group interviews commonly happen in the retail industry, particularly when a new store is opening, when they want to fill as many roles as they can quickly and effectively. Therefore, you may know that a group interview is going to happen. If that’s the case, act and prepare accordingly by getting yourself in the right headspace before the day.
However, sometimes they won’t tell you. This is done deliberately to see how you react but also how you adapt to this new situation and treat your fellow competitors/candidates
Whatever happens, the main thing to do is DON’T PANIC!
I think you are probably bored about how much we talk about preparation before an interview. However, if you are unsure if you have prepared enough here is our blog with top tips to help you prepare for an interview.
However, the point we really recommend you prepare for is getting answers to common interview questions sorted.
The Big First Impression
Before you arrive, make sure you’re 10-15 minutes early. This will give you time to settle your nerves and compose yourself. However it doesn’t matter if you’re the first to arrive, last to arrive or are surprised by how many people are there, your first impression will be vital.
You will be monitored and looked at from the moment you walk in, you need to stand out by being punctual, courteous and enthusiastic.
So be open, talkative and polite. Introduce yourself to everyone, be cordial and strike up conversation where appropriate. I’m not talking about just your fellow interviewees but also the receptionist and the interviewers. The goal here is to be personable and approachable.
The Interview Begins
As the interview begins, there is often a whip around the room asking people to introduce themselves (or even the person next to them). So the big thing to prepare before arriving is a good icebreaker.
Make it interesting. Don’t fall into the modesty trap and say “I’m not that interesting”, pick something unique about yourself and include it (if necessary).
Also now is the time to be paying a lot of attention. Why? Because these people are going to be your future bosses and your future colleagues. Remember their names, remember what they said and build a relationship with them.
Doing this shows your social skills and your communication skills creating a great impression. You also want to avoid repeating what others are saying, creating your own spin or extension on what they have said.
Throughout the day
Group interviews typically last a lot longer than your standard interview, normally about half to a full work day. So you have to be mentally prepared for the long haul and remind yourself of the following points to keep yourself in check.
Your body language is important in every interview, so this one is no different. You want to come across as professional at all times.
The best thing to remember is sit up straight. This is obvious when you first walk into the room, but as the day progresses and those initial nerves subside, you may be inclined to relax. Don’t!
Keep you posture professional and alert, as if you start slouching this will begin to give off a very poor impression. It’s OK to feel comfortable, but don’t lounge like you are on the sofa at home.
When we say listen, we mean really listen. You want to understand what people are saying and are asking of you. You also want to make sure you’re not repeating what other people have said when it comes time to your turn.
You never want to lose concentration during these interviews. This is obviously difficult and mentally taxing so take notes if you have to. This will keep your mind fresh, but don’t fall into the trap of just writing down everything everyone is saying. Be selective.
Our final body language tip is keep a decent amount of eye contact with whoever is speaking. No serial killer stares though. Remember you want to come across as polite not creepy.
There will always be a lot to do in a group interview. There may be tasks and exercises for both groups and individuals, there may be questions and roundtable discussions. Throw yourself into the mix. You don’t want to get lost in the group but you don’t always have to be the leader.
If you have value to contribute or disagree with a point, speak up. Back up your point calmly and logically and don’t get annoyed if you receive any pushback. It’s OK to speak up and put your point across.
Time Your answers
For some questions you will want to answer first, for others you should sit back and answer after a few other people have taken their turn. The reason why you want to do this is show that you are a leader but also a team player, forming your opinion around what your team has said.
DON’T BULLY YOUR WAY IN TO ANSWER! You want to be assertive but cutting someone off, interrupting or just shouting over them is not how you win jobs. What you are after here is striking a balance between being the assertive leader and the quiet one. You want to let the interviewers know you’re there, so don’t shrink into the background.
A common piece of advice is “fake it ‘til you make it”. I loathe that phrase.
Do not be fake! Be your authentic self, especially at interviews. Being fake will do either one of two things;
- People will see through it and dismiss you immediately
- You get the job based on that attitude and you won’t be able to maintain it forever and so will be outed as fake.
Neither of those situations is a great way to build a career. It is much easier and better to be your authentic self.
Remember, you want to be the professional version of this self. You’re still in a job interview after all! Trying too hard won’t impress anyone, so keep you you!
Brilliant Questions & Brilliant answers
You’re going to really want to think about the questions you ask as well as the answers you give. Remember you are trying to stand out from a pool of equally qualified, equally gifted candidates. So don’t be afraid to prepare your questions in advance from your research.
A word of warning though. Make them relevant. If you ask irrelevant questions it will backfire on you and interviewers won’t respond to it. The same goes with your answers so make sure you think deeply and listen carefully.
Its also OK to say “Following on from Kate’s point” to reinforce what you are saying as it shows you are thinking and listening to your future colleagues.
Professional at all times
We briefly said about how you will relax as the day goes on, however, this is a trap. Stay alert to not only your body language but also your speech. As you are talking, making friends, solving tasks and answering questions you may slip into the informal state.
I have a habit of calling everyone “mate”. In a social situation, this isn’t a problem, but in a job interview it’s a huge NO-NO! Yes it’s part of my authentic self but it’s not the professional side of it. Remember your manners and don’t slip into being informal.
At the end of the day you’re going to want to say thank you to all the interviewers and say goodbye to the other candidates. You want to make sure you leave a good impression with everyone.
As we tell all our candidates, the interviewer wants you to be brilliant and to show your best side – that is no different in group, telephone, video or presentation style interviews.
No two interviews are the same and no matter the type, we wish you the best of luck.