You finally got the interview for your dream job and then you find out that it’s a group interview. How can you stand out in a group interview? What happens in a group interview? How can you get the job when competing in a group?

What to Expect in a Group Interview

What can you expect when there are 4-5 candidates in the room with 3-4 interviewers? Some retail and service companies have been known to hold group interviews with as many as 60 people at a time.

Companies tend to use this type of interview as a screening mechanism. It is their intention to screen out some of the candidates in the group. Knowing this it is important to know what to expect.

The first thing you should expect is that a group interview is unlike any one on one interview you have had. You should expect several hours and you should expect to be judged on teamwork as much as individual skill.

What usually – but not always – occurs is this:

  • A Company Presentation: At least 1 but probably 2-3 company officials will give an overview of the company, the position that is open and perhaps benefits. Salary structure is not likely to be discussed.
  • A question and answer session follows the presentation.
  • There might be group problem solving sessions or work-simulations.
  • There might be teams solving work tasks and presenting the result to the group.
  • There might be teams asked to deal with non-work related situational exercises.

How to Stand Out and Thrive

Given that the company is using a group interview because they want to see your skills in the areas of:

Interpersonal and communication skills, problem solving and analytical skills, organizational and leadership abilities, ability to persuade others, ability to delegate, team contributions, stress management and ability to deal with constructive criticism.

In order to demonstrate these skills and stand out in this group interview you should:

  • Introduce yourself by name to all the other candidates if possible and try to remember as many names as possible.
  • Use other candidate’s names in any interactions if possible.
  • Build on what other candidates say without repeating what they say. This is tricky and if you are going to do this make sure your contribution moves the discussion forward.
  • Demonstrate willingness to try new things if the opportunity presents itself.
  • Listen to others and don’t try to answer all the questions or solve the problem by yourself. You do not want to look like a lone ranger or someone who has ‘all the answers’.
  • Remember there are reasons why the company is doing a group interview. You want to stand out not stick out. You want to be seen as a leader and leaders let their people take the lead at times. Be assertive without being aggressive.
  • Be aware of your body language in a group because your interviewers certainly will be. Don’t be passive or aggressive. Be relaxed in your body.
  • Treat the other candidates respectfully. If you have a different opinion express it with respect and with an explanation. Don’t make the other person look bad as that will only make you look bad. Be respectful in every interaction during the interview session.
  • Make eye contact and smile when others are speaking. Pay attention to the interviewers and take cues from their body language. Take the time to think about what you are going to say and word it appropriately.

Companies use group interviews to screen out candidates rather than to screen them in. Remember what the interviewers are looking for in a group interview and give it to them. Teamwork and the ability to problem solve with a group of strangers is highly prized in a group interview.

You are judged on your communication skills and your ability to be proactive in a group – not a wallflower. The interviewers are observing you from the moment you enter the room. Your interpersonal skills, leadership and planning skills, as well as stress management and handling feedback are all observed and noted throughout the session.

Follow the tips given above and you should stand out, thrive and land the job!