Group job interviews are intimidating. You walk into a room with a handful of other candidates and suddenly, you feel like you're on some kind of twisted version of "Survivor." You're thinking: "Are there alliances I don't know about? Is my tiki torch going to get snuffed out if I make a wrong move? Whom can I trust?"
Everyone's sizing each other up, trying to make a strong impression while, at the same time, trying to figure out where he or she stands in the competition.
It's exhausting to say the least.
The good news? Group interviews aren't difficult to master once you understand the purpose and have a few key strategies in your back pocket to help you shine. Here's what you need to know.
Why a Group Interview?
For the hiring company, a group interview can be a big time saver. Talking to five to 10 people at once significantly reduces the number of hours dedicated to the hiring process. In some cases, the company may be hiring more than one person for the role. So, while it feels like a game of "Survivor," it's not a competition necessarily.
But the real benefit of a group interview is that the prospective employer gets to observe you in an environment with your peers. It's a great test of teamwork, leadership and communication skills. It allows you (the interviewee) more opportunity to show your personality – something that interviewers are indeed considering in the hiring process.
In some cases, interviewers may even give the group a project or a problem to solve right there on the spot. This setting can offer valuable insight that's difficult to obtain in any other fashion, and it's especially useful when hiring for roles that require a high level of team interaction. With all this being said, there's definitely a right way and a wrong way to approach the process.
Obviously, your main goal in a group interview is to stand out as the exceptional candidate. You want to make a positive impression and, at the same time, you don't want to appear overly aggressive with the others. Your focus should be on working with the other candidates, not against them.
Listen to the others as they provide answers; don't just wait for your turn to talk. Turn this into a conversation. If someone gives a great response, acknowledge him or her and build on it by saying something like, "Julie brought up a great point, and I'd like to expand on it a bit…"
Using names shows you're personable and attentive, so listen closely during introductions. You can always work names in casually by saying things like, "My experience is similar to Larry's in a few ways…"
Taking note of similarities and differences between you and the other candidates is fine. However, avoid making direct comparisons that sound more like one-upmanship. For example, "I have more experience than Larry in this area."
Always be respectful, courteous and professional. Don't talk down to other candidates or try to make their answers wrong. That doesn't mean you can't voice disagreement; just try not to single anyone out. Instead, simply say, "I have a different point of view and here's why…"
If a debate begins, you can even take note of the fact that others have brought up some persuasive points that will inspire further examination on your part. This shows that, while you have a distinct point-of-view, you're open-minded and not overly set in your ways.
Remember that you don't know exactly what the interviewer is really looking for, so don't try to "fake" anything. Instead, try to bring out the best of yourself. That way, you can leave the experience feeling confident that you gave them solid information to work with so they can make the right hiring choice for the organization and the team.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.