It pains me to say it, but group interviews make sense. When HR resources are tight, businesses can swap the good old one-to-one method for an all-in-one approach instead. By getting all potential candidates together in one room, employers save time and manpower money. Watching applicants operate in a group setting also offers them a great insight into each person’s sense of teamwork and ability to interact with others. It also provides an opportunity for comparison and benchmarking.
While this style is all sunshine and lollypops for employers, group interviews are actually pretty scary for the candidates! Not only do you have to research, prepare, fight the nerves and sell yourself like you would in an individual interview, you now have to do it all in front of your direct competition while trying to stand out in a group where everyone is trying to stand out. Freaky stuff. Challenge accepted.
To leave the winning impression on the panel, you need to need to focus on nailing these 9 things:
How you look is the first thing interviewers will notice. Their visual judgement of you comes before the verbal one, so dress to impress. Always dress smartly and professionally, but if there’s ever a time to whip out the crowd-pleaser outfit with a pop of colour, it’s now. You want to be noticed for the right reasons, and not blend into the background. Needless to say, steer clear of crushed clothes, food stains, messy hair and too much skin on show.
Re-read the job description before going in and revise your own CV too (in case they probe into it). Be very clear in your mind about your best skills and expertise; when it comes to the group tasks, try to mention or reference points which highlight an in-depth understanding of the subject matter, and your technical capability.
Regardless of the role you are applying for, you’ll need to be prepared to showcase creativity. People like to hire people who think in an entrepreneurial way, who think outside the box and aren’t afraid to find new ways of doing things. When answering questions in front of a group, don’t fall into the trap of going for the safe and obvious answer. Try something different to get you noticed. If the obvious answer is obvious to you, it’s obvious to everyone else too and saying it won’t win you any favours, and will only waste you opportunity to showcase your uniqueness.
Conduct breathing exercises before you go in if that’s what it takes. You’ll really need to show the hiring managers you are confident of your own abilities, and confident to speak in front of a group. If you are going to successfully interact with clients, stakeholders or colleagues in the role you’re applying for, you need to showcase an air of confidence. Don’t be the one in the group cowering from the limelight, and avoid making nervous, self-deprecating comments when presenting in front of the other candidates.
Being confident is one thing; being arrogant and bossy is another. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up to answer a question, or volunteer for an exercise, but avoid being the person who has to be heard all the time. You don’t want to be seen as the know-it-all who is hogging all the air time. Showcasing a positive, social attitude is important – these hiring managers are looking for someone to work with them every day. They want someone who is not only ambitious but easy to be around too.
Don’t get roped into a power struggle. Be sure to push for your opinions and ideas to be heard, but be conscious of letting other people speak, and to take things in turn. Hiring managers won’t just wait to be blwon away by a final presentation; they will watch how you interact with others, and if you’re constantly butting in and speaking over others, or hogging the air time, it’s not a good look.
You need to show that you can be a good leader. Don’t shy away from the opportunity to pull everyone together. Even if you aren’t delegated the task of ‘group leader’, when it is your turn to present to the group there are several leadership qualities you can showcase. For starters, offering praise to other candidates for their ideas shows you aren’t self-centred or too proud to give credit where credit’s due. Just don’t be patronising. Speaking in a clear and concise manner at a comfortable pace, with the right level of projection shows you can control your words and collect our thoughts properly. It’s also important to think of some intelligent, relevant questions to ask. If you can raise a really good point, or highlight your understanding of the subject matter by your ability to probe deeper into it in the right way, you will get extra brownie points. A great attribute of an excellent leader is their ability to ask and listen, not just delegate.
8. Body language
When other people are talking, look at them. When people are talking to you, maintain a comfortable level of eye contact. There is a balance to be struck between staring someone down and gazing around the room seeming disinterested. Take notes, but not too many notes that it looks like you’re doodling. You should also make sure you don’t cross your arms or slump onto onto one foot; maintaining a nice, strong posture will paint you as a professional who is aware of their surroundings and audience.
Prepare for ice breakers! Don’t be too serious going into the room, there will almost certainly be a warm up activity where you have to talk about yourself and your interests. Research some ice breaking games and practice coming up with something on the spot. The key here is not to opt out of answering the question. At all costs, avoid the embarrassed giggle accompanied by, “I don’t know!” or “I can’t think!” Even if the question is, “if you could be one piece of food, what would you be and why?”, it is still an interview and you are still required to come up with a compelling answer. If you feel confident enough, try to crack a joke – laughter is the best medicine for nerves, so it’ll ease the tension in the room, and you’ll be thought of as the hero.
Once you’ve finished the interview, it’s important to treat it like any other interview. Follow up with a thank you and a ‘pleasure to meet’ email (if you’ve been in contact directly with them prior to this). If you’ve nailed all 9 of these things, you should expect a call back pretty quickly!