Group interviews, where you’re competing with several other candidates in the same room, can be seriously uncomfortable and nerve-racking. After all, an ordinary job interview is usually stressful enough — but it can be even tougher when it’s not just the company representative judging you, but everyone else competing for that job. And compared to traditional job interviews, there’s a lot more that can potentially trip you up and things you have to think about with group interviews.
For those preparing for a group interview, this piece is a compilation of great comments different HR professionals and people who have succeeded in job interviews have sent us on their #1 tip for doing well in a group interview. There is a lot of good and practical advice here, and I strongly recommend taking the time to read through and consider what’s been suggested.
To summarize, here are the main points people have brought up, along with a link to the full comment:
- Listen to other candidates carefully, and show that you’ve been listening to what other people have said whenever it’s your turn to speak (link) (EDITORS NOTE: This is the main piece of advice people have suggested, and it’s super important)
- Be balanced – don’t rant on a tangent, and also try to avoid being too quiet the entire time (link). You can think in terms of the “take space, make space” rule (link)
- Keeping in mind not to hog the conversation, it is usually advantageous to be the first to answer a question (link)
- Try being the one who lifts everyone else up, coordinates the conversation, and takes interest in what others have to say (link)
- Be respectful to the group, be a team player and keep it professional (link)
- Similarly, think of a group interview not just as an interview, but as partly a networking/dinner party where you do your best to be a team player and get along with everyone (link)
- Try to act like you’re interested in the job and show some excitement (link)
- Think of something you can say that’ll make you stand out (link)
- Arrive early and introduce yourself to everyone, including the other candidates. This helps crack the ice and you can also learn people’s names and use them later (link). Chat with the other candidates whenever there is an opportunity, and don’t even be afraid to ask them questions (link)
- Follow the conversation dynamics, and adapt to changes in the conversation (link)
- Similarly, avoid rehearsed answers and make sure you’re giving unique input that’s relevant to the conversation that’s being had (link)
- It’s great if you can add value and build on top of answers other people have given (link)
- Put on a poker face (link)
In addition to everything on this page, having a read through our piece on conventional job interview tips will also do you good, as almost all of the advice there (such as thoroughly researching the company and following up) is also just as applicable to group interviews. Good luck!
My number one tip for succeeding in a group interview is to listen to other candidates’ answers carefully and then refer to them where necessary during your turn to speak. This shows the interviewer that apart from being a good listener, you also do not feel threatened by the other candidates. It shows that you are a good team player, who does not mind seeing other people succeed. A quality that most employers appreciate.
--Jay Scott, Pugsquest
The main objective of a group interview is to assess whether or not you can work in a team. Companies don't want someone who's a loudmouth and sucks the energy out of the room and neither someone who's too shy to even speak up. They want a balanced candidate.
Therefore, in order to succeed, you need to carry the discussion forward. For this, you will need to use your two ears and one mouth. Listen to what the candidates are saying and then use that as a reference to build your argument. Don't go off on a tangent just because you want to talk about your point; this is a detrimental habit.
During a group interview, you're competing against the other individuals but you also need to collaborate with them. If you lose your cool and start ranting, you're not getting that second-round call. And if you're too quiet the entire time, better start looking at other places.
--Chris Brenchley, Surehand
One of the biggest obstacles that candidates can face when participating in a group interview is overcoming their nerves related to the idea of having to perform for a crowd. One of the techniques that I'll advise candidates to do in order to get in the right head space is to spend a few minutes prior to the interview centering themselves by doing deep breathing exercises and saying positive affirmations, such as I am a confident and experienced professional. I have everything it takes to be successful in this role.
Then when they are in the interview, it's important to treat the experience as if they are having a one-on-one conversation with the person who asked the question and just pretend like the other interviewers are eavesdropping. This approach can help to mitigate any feelings of stage fright that can happen when they feel like they are performing for a group. It also helps to smile and make eye contact with not only the person who asked the question, but also with the other interviewers.
--Terry McDougall, terrybmcdougall.com
I was recently in a group interview. I was interviewed on the Women Who Rock podcast. In order to succeed, I made sure to only answer questions that were posed to me even if I knew the answers to questions others were asked. This ensured we didn't all speak at the same time and showed I respected the other speakers and the moderators. It also helps to review any information you might be asked questions about ahead of time. You don't want people waiting for you to try to think of the answer. I did do my research about the interview topic ahead of time. For both reasons, the interview went smoothly. Also, if there is technology involved with the interview process, make sure you are familiar with it, and make sure you have the tech you need. For instance, an interviewer might ask you to have a landline which not everyone has anymore. Follow these tips and the group interview will go fine.
--Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging
My recommendation for standing out in a group interview is to jot down several questions in advance that are relevant to the position and cover topics or issues you'd like to receive a clear answer to prior to attending a group interview. It is possible that another individual in the group — depending on how big the interview is — may also be asking similar, if not the same, questions as you. Having a few additional questions in your back pocket keeps you prepared when it's your turn to ask thoughtful questions, instead of defaulting to asking filler questions about benefits and PTO.
--Dana Case, MyCorporation
It's natural to look at group interviews as a 'who is the smartest' challenge, and as a result, you can be seen as a smart-ass. It's also a bit of a race to the bottom, with the interviewer having to choose the most likable smart-ass. Instead, try being the one who lifts everyone else up, coordinates the conversation and takes interest in what others have to say. Pretend you are the one charged with making the interview a success.
What this strategy showcases, is your soft skills. The ability to get on with anyone, and bring value to a situation. Any HR manager worth their salt will recognise someone who is constructive, a team-player. They will note that you understand the bigger picture, and while you might not have known how tall Mt Everest is to the nearest meter, you did know how to get the most out of everyone in the room, and that's worth hiring!
--Joshua Strawczynski, JMarketing
Bring the energy to a group interview. You want to be dynamic in your presentation and attitude. By doing this, even if your answers aren't said as eloquently as you'd like, you're sure to be likeable and respected by the interviewers. As someone who interviews applicants, I'm always more inclined to move applicants to the next round when they're excited. Someone who brings energy tells me they are genuinely interested in the job, will bring that same passion to work, and get more out of their co-workers if hired. That's someone, even if they don't have all the skills, I'd like to hire. Skills can be learned. Attitude and energy cannot.
--Brian Robben, Robben Media
My #1 tip for doing well in a group interview is to not allow yourself to get caught up in a competitive mindset. As an interviewer, I am always looking at how you respond when surrounded by a variety of personalities when in a highly stressful situation. The successful candidate is the one that stays consistent to their values, and knows how to display knowledge and solutions while still being respectful to the group and being a team player by listening to others as they speak and keeping it professional.
If they can't do that in a group interview, how will they handle my clients? Especially the difficult ones who always bring a group when reviewing milestones?
--Sanju Ganglani, gang&lani media
First off, group interviews can be a very nerve-wracking and truly unusual experience for an interview. They go against almost everything you learn about interviews in that you are not the sole focus of the interviewer and you have to share your time with others while also trying to make an impact on the interviewer in order to be asked back.
On a social experiment level, group interviews are fascinating in that it shows people experiencing all sorts of emotions and then reacting in ways that can show their true colors in a group or social settings. This isn't always true, but when you put a group of people in a room together it doesn't take long for their social roles to come out. The leader begins asserting themselves in a certain way, the class clown begins lightening the mood and draws attention through that method, and the more reserved person could end up falling into the background trying to find the right time and place to speak without it being awkward.
On a personal level, however, they can be alarmingly tense. No matter your social makeup, the fact is that you are there to try and beat these people out for a job which always raises the stakes to a more competitive cutthroat feel.
I have found that the best way to stand out is to take certain aspects of an interview and certain aspects of a networking event or dinner party and combine them. What I take from the interview side is that you are there to impress the interviewer with your answers and even though there are other people there, your answers will dictate whether or not you are a good fit for the job. Other takeaways from the interview side are good professional manners and soft skills like active listening are key to keep yourself on point.
The networking/dinner party side draws more on inclusion skills where you can show that you are not going to play dirty or compromise your character just to make yourself look better than others in the group interview. If someone has a good answer, acknowledge it and maybe even add to it. If someone is giving a light-hearted answer, adding a joke of your own into it can lighten the mood and bring a laugh into the conversation.
Both the interview and networking/dinner party sides are important but the welcoming aspects of the dinner party approach will show the interviewer that not only are you comfortable in forced social situations, like networking events, meetings, presentations, etc., but you are also showing great teamwork skills. You are not going to work with people that you love at every job, but the way you get along with everyone can show the company you are interviewing for that you are easy to get along with no matter the situation and you can bring people together which is a great leadership quality.
--Brendan Heffernan, Dunk or Three
When I got hired for my position with Tandem Interactive, part of my interview was a group interview. I succeeded in getting the position (I believe) because I did not anticipate any questions, rather I listened to what was asked and took a minute to reply. Before answering each question I thought about how I can apply my answer to the job position and I think that really shows the interviewers that you know the position's requirements inside and out as well as your versatility.
If you find yourself in a group interview, get to know a little about each person on the panel and interview them as well. Pay attention to their questions as it will tell you what is important to them in the position and tailor your answer to what you can pick up on in their personality. Engaging each member in the interview panel shows that you are interested in them and gives you a chance to show your communication skills.
--Rhea Cassimire, Tandem Interactive
Be Memorable: The number one rule for succeeding in a group interview is to stand out. It can be anything from wearing something interesting to a funny story or a unique qualification. When the interview is done you want to be sure that you are top of mind when the conversation about who to hire starts. All else being equal, that little something extra may decide who gets the job.
--Todd Ramlin, Cable Compare
In my opinion, the most important thing in group interviews is dynamics. I like having a chance to talk to everyone, get to know people and exchange a few thoughts. To achieve this balance, I always advise candidates to apply the ‘’take space, make space’’ rule which encourages individuals to speak up and participate in the conversation as long as they don't start hearing their own voice too much. In that case, they should step back and create more space for others to join. This isn’t just the interview etiquette - somebody’s understanding of the group dynamics says a lot about the person. I can easily tell who team players are and I tend to hire these people. Of course, this applies only to the open questions that are not directed to one candidate specifically. However, experienced hiring managers will intentionally introduce at least one or two such questions to test the group and observe people’s behavior.
--Malte Scholz, Airfocus
I have extensive experience conducting group interviews. It is very common in Higher Ed for a group to conduct an interview of a single applicant. Only when hiring large numbers of staff who will work collaboratively to do the same job do we interview candidates in groups.
My #1 tip for those participating in a group interview where they are the only interviewee but they are being interviewed by a group is take note of the interviewers’ names and roles, and respond to questions in a way that demonstrates an understanding of how you would interact with the various interviewers if hired.
My #1 tip for those participating in a group interview where multiple individuals are being interviewed together is to be respectful of group dynamics. Be sure to be heard, but do not monopolize the time. How you interact with others is as important as what you say.
--Dr. Deb Geller, UCLA
Greet personally all interviewers and applicants.
Arrive early at the place, so introduce yourself to the moderator and everybody else else is taking part. Yeah, it involves other members. Not only helps this crack the ice, it's also a convenient chance to get the name of everybody so that you can use that while you're discussing them during the interview. You may think it's not necessary to address another candidate by name, but this demonstrates to the interviewer that you have strong communication skills.
--Eliza Nimmich, Tutor The People
Succeeding in group interviews requires heightened awareness of one's social conventions. Be aware of not focusing all eye contact on one person, and instead follow whoever is speaking or addressing you directly. It can be easy to look away during an interview due to feeling intimidated, and that's even more true during group interviews. One that is especially difficult to control now that most interviews are being conducted in virtual environments is to be aware of interrupting. It can be instinctual to answer a question before making sure that person was done speaking. It can rub people the wrong way when done because it makes the other person/people feel that they aren't being heard and/or that their words aren't valued enough. Group interviews should be treated almost the exact same way as one-on-one interviews as far as how you compose yourself, how you speak about your accolades, etc. The only difference in my eyes is just being more aware of group social conventions vs. those demonstrated in 1-on-1 discussions.
--Tom Mumford, Undergrads Moving
Group interviews seem more difficult than traditional job interviews since they would need to see how candidates relate to and collaborate with others. Most companies use group interviews to get a preview of how applicants react in an environment that tests their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. If you want to become outstanding and stand out against the competition, you should know the following tips.
Before the interviews, you always need to prepare well. Remember to do research beforehand. You should make sure you know something about the company and any other details they can possibly ask you. Then, during the group interview, you should listen carefully to the interviewer and other candidate's responses.
Also, try to be the first one to answer the question since it can help you to make a good impression on the interviewer. You can ask questions regarding the topic as well, but the question should be good and intelligent. The most important thing is to be confident. Keep smiling and nodding when you answer and listen to others. This means you are listening intently and respect them.
--Carol Li, CocoFax
As a student at Columbia, I successfully completed many group interviews. My number one tip is to speak up and try to answer first (at least the first couple times), but don't be a verbal ball hog. This shows that you're a leader, but also a team player. Another bonus tip is to incorporate the answers of other interviewees in your future responses. This shows that you're engaged and paying attention.
I've used these tips to gain internships at prestigious Wall Street firms (Morgan Stanley and J.P.Morgan) and think they make a world of difference!
--Tolu Obikunle, Sapiens Beverage Company
My advice is to follow conversation dynamics. As a hiring manager, I appreciate when group interview participants make contributions that move us forward as a group and not just benefit them individually. Some applicants try to change the flow of a discussion only to make this brilliant comment they thought of some minutes ago. Group interviews are always vivid. Once you get your chance to speak, some of your insights might be irrelevant or already addressed by someone else. Paying attention to what is being said and quickly adapting to the conversation changes are crucial to success. Of course, every recruiter focuses on different priorities, but for me, the quality of your input is much more important than the amount of time you speak.
--Dorota Lysienia, LiveCareer
Putting on a poker face. This is the cleverest way to show confidence when you’re with other candidates. Never let the interviewer know that you are surprised and shocked. Enter the room with confidence and resist the urge to size everyone up. Interviewers are keeping an eye on how you react to the situation and the group. This is an indication of how you’ll interact with the company’s team and respond to future surprises on the job.
There is no doubt about the fact that job interviews are incredibly nerve-wracking, but group interviews are much worse. Good preparation is indeed the fundamental element for success in a job interview. All you need to do is bundle it with the above technique, and you’ll ace it.
--Israel Gaudette, Link Tracker Pro
Skip the rehearsed answers: Job candidates in a group interview often tend to regurgitate the same answers given by other candidates because they have memorized answers to common group interview questions. To stand out from the crowd, you need to be ready to bring a unique perspective from everyone else. This will require you to ditch the memorized answers and to pay close attention to the ongoing conversation. Your goal should be to chime in with an interesting view, ask unique questions, and move the conversation forward. Sure, you can build on another person’s answer but resist the urge to repeat the same answer without adding your own perspective. This will go a long way in demonstrating your leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills.
--Vincent Scaramuzzo, Ed-Exec
My best piece of advice has to be to chat with your fellow interviewees in your interview.
For an interview to get onto my Journalism Masters degree, I had a group interview with 2 other people. During the interview, I noticed opportunities to talk to the other 2, and I even asked them questions! This might seem counterintuitive, but in fact, it showed the interviewer that I was comfortable, curious, and enthusiastic about other people. I was successful, and later on the interviewers (my future lecturers) told me they were really impressed and it was one of the biggest selling points from my interview.
Now I'm a HR manager, and I'm setting up interview processes including group interviews. One of the highest scoring behaviours will be interviewees chatting amongst themselves. It shows their personality and makes the interview feel far more natural and comfortable.
--Rhiannon Moore, Evopure
Personality really shines through during a group interview. The person who is speaking up, being friendly to the other applicants, and listening while other people are answering questions, is typically the person who stands out to me during a group interview. If you go into an interview unprepared and then you aren’t doing a great job paying attention to the other applicants, it tends to look negatively on you, even if you are the most qualified candidate there. Being prepared as well as being confident in your answers will help you stand out during the interview. Show the company how much you want to be there by being engaged, joyful, and respectful throughout the process. Group interviews can be daunting and somewhat uncomfortable, but if you do your part by being prepared prior to the interview and respectful and friendly throughout the process, odds are you are going to stand out compared to someone else.
--Steve Bourie, American Casino Guide Book
I have been to multiple group interviews. One of them was for a leadership position in a voluntary organization under the government while the others were for university courses (Double degree course and Medicine).
My #1 tip for doing well in a group interview is to value-add on top of other interviewees' experience/views/suggestions.
Below are reasons why this is my #1 tip:
1. Some people would say that thinking of a very good idea/solution is their #1 tip to stand out but the fact is, coming up with an extremely good idea in an stressful interview setting is very difficult. Thus, depending on this tip is both unreliable and unrealistic.
2. By adding value to other interviewees' experiences/views/suggestions, it shows the interviewers that you are actively listening and working with your teammates to work towards a common purpose. This tip, I feel, is the most reliable and effective tip that you can use in an interview.
--Clovis Chow, TimeOrganizeStudy