You arrive for your job interview only to be ushered into a conference room where a half-dozen other candidates are already waiting. Being prepared for this sort of surprise can be the difference between embarrassment and success.
Group job interviews are becoming more common. They’re intended to expedite the hiring process, but for most candidates they’re pretty intimidating. It’s exhausting to interview alongside other candidates who are all hoping for the same job, with everyone sizing each other up and trying to outdo one another to make a lasting impression.
Luckily, there are a few strategies you can use to master the group interview. Knowing these tactics before you need them can help you outshine a roomful of competitors if an employer springs a group interview on you.
1. Understand the Process
In a group interview, one or several people interview all candidates for a position simultaneously. In addition to speeding up hiring, the process also allows hiring managers to see you in a team setting so they can better assess your communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills.
Very often, the interview is a group discussion during which candidates take turns answering the interviewer’s questions or sharing thoughts among themselves on an assigned topic. Also common is giving the interviewees a hypothetical situation to address as a group while the hiring manager watches to assess how the candidates handle teamwork.
2. Do Your Homework
Prepare for the interview as you would any other – that means researching the company and (if possible) the hiring manager and practicing answers to common interview questions. You can also check Glassdoor for information about the hiring process from past candidates. They may even shed some light on the types of questions or activities you’ll face.
Be careful not to over-prepare. Sounding too rehearsed can seem disingenuous or dishonest, and hiring managers are looking for authenticity. In fact, group interviews are designed to test how candidates handle off-the-cuff situations, so being too scripted can be a knock against you.
3. Speak Up
Get a feel for the room. Very often, a group interview is intended to be a conversation rather than an interrogation. Don’t wait for your turn to talk. Add to the conversation when it makes sense and isn’t obtrusive.
If another candidate gives a great response, acknowledge it and then build on it (“That’s a great point, Jane. I’d love to expand on it a bit …”). It’s not about being the loudest or chattiest; it’s a chance to show that you are paying attention, confident, experienced, and a natural leader.
4. Be Professional
You want to stand out during a group interview, but not for the wrong reasons. Resist the temptation to one-up, mock, or belittle other candidates. Instead of focusing on someone else’s shortcomings, show off the talents and skills that make you unique.
Trying to make yourself look better by undermining the competition is sure to backfire. It will likely reflect poorly on you in the hiring manager’s eyes. Plus, there’s always a chance more than one of you will get hired. Would you want to work side by side with someone you just treated poorly?
You can disagree with others in the room, but do so in a respectful manner. Rather than singling someone out by name or saying an idea is stupid, say something like, “I have a different viewpoint ,and here’s why …”
5. Follow Up
Finally, following up after any interview is a good idea, but it’s especially important with group interviews. It’s your last opportunity to make a good impression and set yourself apart from the competition. Send a thank-you note (old-fashioned handwritten cards are more memorable than emails) to every person who interviewed you.
Take advantage of this last communication to remind them of a point you made during the interview to help them remember you. It’s also a good idea to note a few things you learned during the process so they know you paid attention and care about the job.
While group interviews can be scary for the uninitiated, they don’t have to kill your chances at landing your dream job. Shift your mindset from being fearful to feeling confident by mastering the steps above. Before long, you’ll grow to love that this unique interview format gives you an opportunity to show off why you’re a better choice than everyone else.
Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB).