The format of a typical job interview is straightforward and traditional. It takes place between the candidate and the interviewer (often a hiring manager) sitting on opposite sides of the desk. When a potential employer invites you to undergo a standard interview process, this is what you can typically expect during an initial screening.
Not all interviews, however, adhere to this conventional model. Some can take place online or outside company premises, while others occur in groups with other aspiring employees. The term for the latter interview format is a group interview.
What is a Group Interview?
A group interview is a screening process where a point person from the human resources team throws questions to multiple candidates at the same time.
The objectives of this interview format are to:
- Determine if a job candidate can demonstrate teamwork attributes required by the company or stated in the job description
- Show how an applicant responds to stress — crucial for fast-paced, dynamic and highly stressful job positions
- Find out how an applicant responds in a group of individuals they don’t know
- See how a candidate can stand out or set themselves apart from the others
- Figure out if the applicant is the right fit for the company
Group interviews are different from panel interviews. The latter format involves a hiring team panel throwing questions at a single job candidate. This panel is typically composed of a representative from human resources or talent acquisition, the hiring manager and relevant team members who will likely be working closely with the applicant.
The Typical Process of a Group Interview
The company’s HR representative will inform job candidates that they will be going through a group interview at a specific date and time. This gives the aspiring employees time to prepare for this particular group format.
Note: Some companies choose not to inform applicants that they’ll be undergoing a group interview. Instead, they’ll simply request an “interview” without going through the specifics. This allows the HR representative to see how a job candidate will react and adapt to the situation thrown at them.
The HR representative (and members of the group interview team, if applicable) will walk into the interview room to greet the applicants, introduce themselves and briefly explain their role in the organization.
The group interview team then takes turns asking questions to each job candidate. The team members will take note of how each interviewee responds to the questions.
If a particular applicant gets their point across without taking up too much time, they likely have the teamwork skills needed by the employer. On the other hand, a job candidate may not be a good fit if they force their way into every answer without delivering quality responses to group interview questions.
A group interview may come with additional exercises to see if a job applicant demonstrates a certain skill. These exercises may include describing other interviewees, coming up with an original short story and building a house of cards.
Why Companies Do Group Interviews
Employers use the group interview technique to find a large number of employees in a short period. A couple of examples include an employer looking for 50 delivery truckers or an outsourcing company in search of hundreds of customer service representatives. Companies that use this particular interview format to screen several candidates at one time can cut down on the interview process times.
Some employers also employ group interviews when hiring for vacant positions that demand excellent communication and people skills, such as a key account manager. This format enables employers to observe behaviors indicative of success on the role before the company invests money, time and effort into hiring an applicant.
Sample Questions to Expect in a Group Interview
Questions in a group interview may vary from the conventional one-on-one format. The interviewer, for instance, may ask all candidates to answer the same question. Another possibility is asking different questions for each applicant.
Here are some questions that you can expect in a group interview:
How would you describe yourself?
The employer wants to find out more about your relevant experience. They also want to learn more about you on a personal level. Consider providing a response that describes you accurately. Then, conclude it with a personal detail, interest or anecdote.
How would your former co-workers describe you?
The employer wants to look at your self-perception. They also want to check if you’ll easily fit into the company culture.
Why did you submit your application for this vacant job post?
The interviewer wants to understand your exact reasons for applying. They want to know if you have the skills, motivation and qualifications necessary to succeed in your preferred job. Look at this as an opportunity to share relevant skills and experience, as well as talk about the company in your research.
What do you think are the skills necessary for this position?
The employer wants to know how well you understand the requirements of the job role. If you read the job description and did your homework, you would easily know what to say to this question.
What would do if you see your colleague steal something at work?
The company may pose ethical questions to determine how you plan to respond to a difficult situation in front of a group. They will also check your knowledge of industry-specific guidelines concerning these cases.
Looking at the other candidates in the room, who would you hire and why?
Interviewers raise this group interview question to find out your decision-making skills. They’ll also know if you’ve been paying attention to what the other candidates are saying. You could easily address this question by listening attentively and discussing your preferred applicant’s skills effectively.
Group interview pro-tip: Never respond with, “Me, because I’m the best candidate in the room.” This answer does two things: it displays your arrogance and shows your lack of engagement in the conversation.
How do you communicate well in the office?
Interviewers want to identify how you’re able to address communication barriers at work. They also check if your style of communication aligns with the rest of the company. Describe a situation where you used your soft skills to overcome a particular obstacle.
How to Get Ready for a Group Interview
A group interview can be stressful, as you could be up against applicants who may have an experience or skills advantage over you. Don’t worry, though. You could tip the scales to your favor with careful planning and preparation.
Here are some group interview tips to help you come out on top:
Dress for Success
Pick a formal outfit that will make you look subdued and professional. As much as possible, avoid wearing flashy clothing. You want your interviewers and the other candidates in the room to notice your skills and confidence, not your outfit.
Prepare a Compelling Introduction
The interviewer will likely ask everyone to do a short but meaningful introduction. Given that first impressions are important in a job interview, make sure that you plan your introduction. Aim for a confident delivery and highlight your relevant experience and skills. Also, keep your intro short and straight to the point.
You’re attending a group interview, not a presidential debate. Avoid dominating the discussion by giving other candidates a chance to speak. If you don’t agree with what the other applicants are saying, refrain from openly discounting or attacking their views. Instead, acknowledge their perspective and provide an alternative response to the interviewer’s question.
Pose Questions at the End of the Group Interview
At the end of the group interview, the interviewer may give applicants the opportunity to make inquiries. Raising relevant and intelligent questions will help make you more memorable in the interviewer’s mind.
Send a Thank-You Note
As soon as the session concludes, e-mail a thank-you note to keep your application top of mind. Note down the meaningful conversations that took place and let the company know that you’ve enjoyed the experience. Gratitude and positivity can go a long way in getting you the job you want.
A group interview enables you to display skills that you could not do in a traditional one-on-one setting. By taking note of this comprehensive guide, you can ace the interview process and be well on your way to a better career.