How To Ace A Group Interview (Questions Included)

By Mike Simpson

It’s here! It’s finally here!

The day you’ve been waiting for forever – the day of your interview for your dream job with the company of your choice. Man, you’ve worked hard to get where you are right now.

You spent hours perfecting your resume and tailoring your cover letter.

You spent days agonizing over your interview wardrobe and spent three hours in the mirror perfecting your Windsor knot.

You’ve done your research on not only the company you want to work for, but the people who will be interviewing you.

You’re confident (but not cocky) and ready to tackle anything the interviewer throws your way – anything that is, except the dreaded group interview.

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You walk into the room, fully prepared to walk out with a job offer, but nothing could prepare you for the fact that instead of meeting one on one with the hiring manager, you’re sitting down with five other candidates, five other equally bright and qualified job seekers – and they’ve all worked just as hard as you have to get where they are right now.

Oh…darn.

So, how do you handle a situation like this?

First thing first, don’t panic. In fact, take a deep breath and relax a little bit. A group interview, once you know how to master it, is one of the easiest interviews to nail.

The goal is to make sure you stand out, for all the right reasons, and we’re here to help you figure out just what it will take to ensure that happens.

Of course, before you can sail through one, you need to know exactly what you’re walking into.

For that, we need to start with the basics.

What Is A Group Interview?

Let’s start with what it’s not. A group interview is not a panel interview.group-vs-panel(1)

A panel interview is one in which you, the interviewee, are brought in to interview with a group of individuals from the company.

You are the sole focus of the interview and the interviewers spend the time asking you questions and getting to know you.

A panel interview might include potential coworkers and professional peers as well as managers and upper level individuals.

A group interview, on the other hand, is where you are interviewed alongside several other potential candidates for the same position.

But why?

Shouldn’t they know by now that I’m perfect for the job?

Why do they have to bring anybody else into this situation??

Why Are Group Interviews Used?

For several reasons.

First off, it saves time, and as we all know, time is money to busy hiring managers.

It’s also a great opportunity for them to see how you react.

Chances are, you’re being hired for a position where you are going to have to work with other people and the fastest way to see how adaptable you are and how well you can cooperate with others is to see it first hand before they’ve taken the risk and hired you.

It’s also cheaper to hire 10 people in one hour than spend ten hours interviewing each person individually. Like we said, time is money.

A lot of times group interviews are used for positions that include customer service components and interactions with large numbers of clients or the public.

They are also often used to find individuals to fill positions where there might be a number of current openings like sales teams.

Not only are you answering questions, you’re also demonstrating through your actions exactly what you’re going to be like to work with…which is why you need to be sure you’re more than ready to tackle this sort of interview in a professional way.

Group interview questions can cover not only the standard interview questions, but also include questions which require you to work in a team. Hiring managers want to see not only how you do on your own, but how you do when you’re paired up with those around you and how well you can work together.

  • Are you a team player or are you just looking for an opportunity to sabotage the other interviewees?
  • Are you a leader or are you a follower?
  • Can you problem solve with others or are you a part of the problem itself?
  • Are you comfortable taking directions from someone else or are you the one who has to constantly be in charge no matter what?
  • Can you stand out from the other job seekers in the room and differentiate yourself enough to showcase who you are without dominating the interview and standing out for all the wrong reasons?

The quickest way to make sure you leave a lasting, positive impression on your hiring manager and interview team requires you to first master the art of the group interview before you even walk through that door.

Skills That Help You Succeed In a Group Interview

Play it cool

Your interview starts the second you walk through the door, so you have to make sure that the first impression you give is the right impression. If you’re lucky enough to know ahead of time that you’re going into a group situation, this should be easy.

Walk in with a friendly confidence (but again, don’t be cocky). If you don’t know ahead of time that you’re doing a group interview, don’t let your shock/disappointment/horror show on your face. It’s okay to be mildly surprised, but try to do your best to recovers as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Don’t joke around about the situation. Don’t try to be the funny guy in the room before anything even starts. Play it cool. You’re here to get a job, not audition for open mic night.

Open Your Ears, Not Your Mouth

This one is a big one. The fastest way to ruin your chances at getting the job is by not listening to what’s going on around you.

Pay attention to what’s being said, and not just by the interviewer or hiring manager, but by the other interviewees as well. Part of being a team is building off of the skills and abilities of your fellow peers.

Has one of them come up with a great idea but you know how to take it to the next level? Offer that information up. Not only will it show the hiring manager that you’re paying attention, but it saves you the embarrassment of repeating someone else’s brilliant idea…five minutes after everyone else has already heard it. Ouch.

On top of listening, remember what’s being said, starting with everyone’s name, and by everyone we mean everyone, hiring manager and fellow interviewees. You’ll score major bonus points by being able to correctly identify individuals during the interview. It’ll also make writing those follow up thank you notes much easier!

It’s All About You

This goes along with playing it cool. Your job is to get you a job. Focus on why you’re there, not on the others around you.

The best way to show you’re a team player is to knuckle down and be one. Don’t use the interview as an opportunity to belittle or tear down the other applicants in a bid to make yourself look better. You’ll only come off as combative, difficult, and uncooperative, and who wants to hire that guy?

On top of that, if you focus all your energy on getting rid of the competition, can you honestly focus on making sure you’re doing the best possible job you can of representing who you really are and the qualities that make you the perfect candidate?

You are there at the interview for one simple reason, to show the hiring manager that you are the right person for the job.

It’s not your responsibility to show them that the other candidates aren’t. They’ll do that on their own.

It’s NOT All About You

Hang on, you just said it was all about me in the paragraph above! I’m confused.

Yes, the above paragraph is critical, but so is this one, and part of being the perfect candidate is learning to balance these two seemingly contradictory statements.

Yes, we want you to shine because you’re you, but a group interview is also a time for you to show how well you work with others.

Remember, if the position you’re interviewing for requires collaboration with others, a group interview is a great way for an employer to get an informal glimpse into how you’ll be as a possible employee…which means you have to remember to shine on your own and play well with others.

Make sure when you’re talking that you’re including everyone in the discussion. Don’t dominate the floor. This isn’t a time to brush up on your monologue skills. It’s also not the time to fade into the background and let everyone else speak for you.

Remember to make eye contact and as we said before, learning everyone’s name i