I decided to write this blog post (or essentially have friends and colleagues write their experiences for me) to learn about  something I have never done before: a group interview.

With my current job hunt always on my mind, I thought I might need to prepare myself for unfamiliar situations. Luckily, I’ve prepared the responses I gathered in this blog post so we can all learn from experiences of those brave souls before us.

I want to especially thank everyone who sent me the following information about their experiences; I wouldn’t have been able to write this post without you.

A few concepts I picked up on from reading these:

Tips that relate to individual interviews

  • Be yourself
  • Stand out
  • Follow up
  • Arrive on time (meaning early- on time is late)
  • Communicate clearly
  • Be positive
  • Be confident
  • Be prepared (have a printed copy of your résumé, pen, etc.)
  • Dress appropriately– Sidebar: Know what appropriate means. Look at these tips for dressing professional here.

Tips specific to a group selection process

  • Stand out among your competition (who is sitting beside you)
  • Be polite and engaging with other interviewees
  • Be enthusiastic but not aggressive
  • Be overdressed (your competition will be)
  • Be proactive in the situation (think on your feet)
  • Assess your interviewer’s needs and tailor your responses (Why are they interviewing in a group setting- to see if you can handle pressure, work with others, respond to authority?

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some firsthand group interview experiences!

Jessica Airey – I had a group interview last year for a college resident position. Typically, I tend to like interview settings because I feel comfortable talking with other people about themselves, my skills, why I feel passionate about the position I am applying for and why I think I would be a good fit, etc. However, this particular situation was much more awkward than a traditional one-on-one interview. I didn’t feel uncomfortable per se until I picked up on the nerves and tension coming from the others involved, who seemed to feel uncertain about how to act around each other in this setting. There was an air of competitiveness that I don’t think exists in individual interviews.
I learned from this experience that, cliché as it sounds, be yourself

Getting overly competitive sends the wrong vibes to potential employers. The more relaxed and prepared you feel, the better I believe you will do, regardless of who is interviewing beside you.

Follow Jessica at @jessicaairey

Angela Howell– Group interviews are effective and allow people to stand out, but I feel a major downfall of putting potential employees together is potentially stifling strong contenders simply because a few outspoken individuals hog the spotlight. Sometimes the loudest are not the most qualified or effective, but they’re remembered. Also, some interviewees may not like to brag on themselves too much or may feel their experience and qualifications aren’t at the level of others who spoke before them so they recoil, and you miss out on someone who would have been a great candidate. I think allowing for individual alone time with each person beforehand, (before any downsizing of the selected group occurs,) you can get a better idea of who someone is and understand their reaction better.

I participated in several group interviews with both Best Buy and Babies R Us. There were 7-10 of us in a conference room. We were given time to mingle amongst ourselves before the interviewer came. We went around the table and learned about each other’s backgrounds, including work experience, and answered related questions. They would pose questions related to sales or ethics and have us debate aloud. stand out

Given we were in the retail and customer service industry, communicating and engaging with strangers is a great way to assess how effective a potential employee will be.
Angela is a stellar SAHM. I know because I see precious pictures of her babies on Facebook all the time. (I had to resort to urban dictionary to figure out what SAHM is- go ahead and click it; learn something new today.)

Rachel Raddatz– Last year, I participated in a group interview for the first time. I was one of 12 interviewed for three internship positions. The experience was eye-opening as it was a full day of completing interview tasks. One task was tweeting why you should be hired, which was difficult to put in 140 characters. Candidates got extremely creative and it was fun seeing each one. Another task was giving us a campaign to create, where we worked in groups to create a campaign for a client. Once strategic planning was up, we presented to candidates and those from the agency.

I was nervous going into the interview. What helped was the other candidates’ friendliness and conversation, which made it more comfortable. Some tips I have for job seekers are to

follow up

Follow Rachel at @racheleraddatz

Matthew Tawfiq– My group interview was with Wells Fargo. The most interesting part of the interview was that even though they were hiring for several different positions, everyone interviewed the same way.  It appeared, to me, they were interviewing candidates more for how they would fit in with company culture. After a bit of silence, I decided to break the tension and start some conversation. We found out we were all interviewing for different branches and  different positions.  It did not seem like anyone was competing for the same job.

The interviewer asked everyone to introduce themselves by name and tell the group an interesting fact about him or herself, then proceeded with questions. She was paying close attention to who was talking and to the engagement around the table. The interview lasted around an hour and a half with a 30 minute Q&A session.
In hindsight, Wells Fargo is customer oriented and it seemed the interviewer was looking for how we dealt with other people and how we would deal with customers and coworkers.  show up and engage

The interview was definitely one of the most interesting I’d ever been through. The biggest suggestion I can give to anyone going into one is to show up early, engage everyone in the room before the interviewer arrives, and at least look like you’re enjoying yourself.

It would be difficult to hire someone who looks bored or indifferent in the first interview.

Matt is an intern at the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office.

Jemel Agulto– The group interview process that I was a part of was for Hollister Co. in August 2010. It consisted of approximately eight applicants and one moderator, and was conducted in the food court of the Houston Galleria. The questions during the process were asked in a round-robin format and were pretty generic: what makes you a good employee, what would fellow employees say about you, what are your strong points and what are your weak points.

With that being said, there was no way of singling yourself out from the crowd. After the first couple of questions, I noticed that the group’s answers were as generic as the questions or were just a reiteration of the original responder. So from that point onbe unique to my joking personality. No matter how off-the-wall my answers may have been, I wanted to separate myself from the crowd. Whether it was a good a idea or not, I ended up being one of two people from that interview that received a job offer the next week.
Follow Jemel at @nycboi411.

Nancy Guitierrez– I had my first and only group interview when I was applying for a job at Abercrombie and Fitch. This also happened to be my first one. Coming into the interview, I had the idea that my responses had to outshine everyone else’s and I wasn’t prepared for it. During the interview, we were seated at a round table at the mall’s food court. The interviewer (store manager) performed the group interview in the essence of individual interviews. She had each one of us answer 4 questions one at a time and once each person was done, she would move on to the next.

The process was unique since it really wasn’t something I was expecting. I was expecting a group interview where the questions would be answered in random order. I think the whole point of any group interview  is that engage in conversation

 In the real world, a person will probably have to speak to a public audience at some point and this is excellent practice for jobs that typically hire teenagers and young adults.
Follow Nancy at @Nancy_VPofPR

Travis Davidson– In 2004, I interviewed with a group at O2B Kids in Gainesville, Fla. Unsure of what to expect, I arrived to find a group of 11 other people waiting for an interview as well. I scanned the room, developing first impressions of people waiting with me and noticed a surprising number of interviewees were dressed in only casual clothes, not looking prepared for an interview at all. be prepared

When the questions began, I responded with ease and impressed the interviewer. After everyone relaxed more, the interviewer asked us to participate in an activity called “The Hiring Game.” Heather, my interviewer, assigned each of us a specific job role and a problem and asked us to act out our scenario and demonstrate how we would solve the issue. When I was invited for the second round of group interviews, we were given another set of instructions– be prepared to discuss an activity you can teach to a 5-year-old child. Both of these scenarios were conducted with the other interviewees as our audience, and both went well for me. I calmly handled the first situation with poise and my activity ran smoothly for the second. I received the position after my third interview, which became a one-on-one conversation.  
Follow Travis at @travisjdavidson

Reganie Smith-Love– I’ve had a few group interview experiences and I think it’s safe to say the process is nerve-wracking, that’s something you have to realize. I don’t think anyone can go into that situation and be completely cool, so if you realize it’s going to be hard but prepare yourself, you’ll be much more calm. If you’re at an end, you’re at an advantage because it’s easy to stand out as the first or last person answering a question. communicate clearly

In any interview situation you have competition. Having your competition sit next to you is both an advantage and a disadvantage. You know exactly how they’re answering questions and visa versa. Being unique and different in your approach to the questions is essential. You can say similar answers, but be sure to craft it in a way your group did not (or will not) – personalize your responses with real-life examples. Out of the classroom or classroom examples are acceptable, if you can prove your worth. I think the biggest thing is to GI5

You have the best opportunity to show just how unique you are when you’re interviewing with your competition.

Follow Reganie at @rsmithlove

Do you agree with these tips? What have you learned from group interviews?

2 Comments on “How to Own a Group Interview

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