Group Interview: 5 Tips to Survive and Flourish

We all hate them, but is it possible to actually enjoy them?

With their ties done up to 11, they talk about business.

We’ve all had that wonderful feeling of being invited to an interview, it’s confirmation that your application was top quality and the company wants to meet you. Continue reading further down the email or listening to the voicemail and your heart may drop, like mine did, when I read the words, ‘group interview and presentation.’ Since leaving school, I’ve always been someone confident in their ability and rarely shy, however, the idea of fighting for a job (metaphorically) with my fellow candidates sat next to me or worse, watching me, was something incredibly intimidating. I did however get the job that I was interviewed for and became close friends with my two fellow candidates (something I wasn’t expecting when I arrived for the assessment). It’s both tricky and terrifying, but here’s how you can survive and, perhaps even thrive in the group interview environment.

1. Remember people’s names.

One of my biggest weaknesses in life is, regretfully, forgetting people’s names. I’ll call Gavin: Gareth, James: Joseph, and Lewis: Liam. The way that I’ve improved on this is to make a concerted effort to use their name frequently. This technique allows the interviewer to see that you are personable, friendly, and confident. Remembering people’s names shows that you’ve paid close attention and it’s hard to be mad at someone who knows your name.

If you haven't done a three-way high five at the end of the interview, was there even a point in you going?

2. Bring your A-Game from individual interviews.

That firm but friendly handshake you’ve mastered? Bring it. The eye contact you’ll endeavour to keep unbroken? Bring it. The smiley, cheerful version of yourself that rarely exists outside of this environment? Bring it. The group interview is an assessment, just like a one-to-one but you’re going to need to bring out the big guns, the full-on Mr. Polite. This is the big time.

3. Treat them as your allies, not your enemies.

The candidates sitting next to you in the waiting room are just like you. They feel sick with nerves too, they didn’t eat breakfast either, and their handshake will be just as sweaty as your own. You might be entering the gladiatorial arena to go head-to-head for this one job, but they have feelings too and if they don’t get the job, they’ll feel just as deflated as you would. Why not make small talk with them in the waiting room about their journey or even where they’re from? Break that ice with a conversational ice-pick! 

I'm not 100% sure what's happening in this image, but it looks business-y

4. Know when to take a back seat and when to lead.

You do not want to be THAT-guy/girl. Shouting down others just to try to make the strongest impression is not a great idea, after all; the strongest is not always the best. Your interviewers are most likely looking for active listeners, those that aren’t just waiting to have their turn to speak but, in contrast, being too quiet can also dominate a room and be perceived as cold or a little bit calculating. You may find that the eggshells forming under people’s feet lead right to the exit door.

5. Forge your own personality within the group.

Some people are naturally funny or empathetic, others: intellectual. Whatever your personality traits are, use them. Your self-deprecating humour can become one of the many tools in your toolbox. It is unlikely that the company you’re interviewing for wants a drone (or at least they’ll avoid appearing like they’re just hiring drones), they want someone who’ll be a positive energy in the office or an emotional guru to give council when times get a little tough. It’s important however, not to pretend you’re someone that you aren’t. Don’t manipulate your character to fit their mold, if it means sacrificing swathes of your personality. If they don’t want you, it’s their loss.

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