For many organisations looking to fill multiple vacancies, the most effective way to identify promising candidates and begin the screening process is in a group interview.
Not only are they a good way to compare and contrast candidates, they also demonstrate how each individual works as part of a team, and how they perform under pressure.
If you’ve never attended one before, trying to stand out from the crowd can be a daunting prospect. However, if you approach a group interview with the right attitude, it can be a great way of practically reinforcing the skills required within the job description.
To help you make the right first impressions, here’s our list of group interview: do’s and don’ts…
Group interview do’s:
- Arrive early – When you’re competing against a number of other candidates, it’s essential you make the most of every opportunity to stand out –and not be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Aside from being punctual and courteous, arriving ahead of schedule has another unique advantage in this situation. At a group interview, you can expect to be monitored from the moment you enter the building, so the earlier you arrive, the longer you have to impress. It also allows you to interact with other candidates in a less formal setting, showing off your social skills.
However, always bear in mind that there is such a thing as arriving too early. Getting there before the security guard won’t win you any bonus points.
- Remember the icebreaker – Before any of the actual tasks begin, you’ll almost always be asked to provide some sort of introduction for yourself (or worse, some sort of introduction for someone else in the group). To avoid embarrassing situations, always prepare your answer beforehand. Your intro needn’t be long, provided it’s pertinent and engaging.
Remember: if you can’t think of anything particularly exciting, embellishments are allowed. Although it may be true, ‘um, I’m not sure, I’m not really that interesting…’ isn’t going to give you the start you need.
- Sit up straight – Body language can make all the difference. Do it right, and you’ll appear attentive and alert, showing your interviewers that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say. Do it wrong, however, and you’ll only look listless and lethargic (not the qualities of choice for many employers).
There’s nothing wrong with relaxing as the interview progresses and showing that you’re comfortable. But you needn’t let your attitude compromise your posture. So try and sit up straight wherever possible. Just remember to breathe occasionally…
- Prepare questions – If you’ve prepared for your interview correctly, you should have carried out plenty of research about what the company does and their position within the market. Always use this to your advantage during the obligatory ‘any other questions’ portion of the interview.
However, if you genuinely can’t think of anything to bring up for discussion, don’t force it. Asking an irrelevant question just for the sake of asking one is more transparent than you may think.
Here’s our list of interview questions, just in case you’re in need of inspiration.
- Include everyone/Be inclusive – Although your leadership skills are being assessed, don’t be tempted to go overboard. One of the most important facets of leadership is the ability to ensure everyone’s opinions are heard, not just voicing your own. If there’s an introvert in the group, getting them involved in the task and encouraging them to participate will win you major points, both with your fellow candidates and with your interviewers.
Other things to do: Praise others’ ideas, take notes, dress appropriately, smile.
Group interview don’ts:
- Be fake – It may be a cliché, but sometimes the best advice is just to be yourself. Chances are your interviewers will be experienced in group situations, and therefore adept in detecting when someone’s overdoing it.
Trying too hard to stand out is not going to make you many friends, especially amongst your assessors, so always try to be as genuine as possible. See also: laughter. Unless you’re going for a job as a pantomime villain, leave your over-exuberant chuckles and guffaws at the door.
- Talk over people – This is one of the most common mistakes of the group interview try-hard. When the competitive nature of the interview kicks in, it can be tempting to increase the volume to get your point across. However, whatever role you’re applying for, you should never underestimate the importance of teamwork.
Remember: the wisest people don’t always speak the loudest, but they always make their voices heard. So always try to think before you speak…
- Get lost in the group – There’s a fine balance between this point and the last. It’s highly likely that, whether genuine or not, one or two people in the group will try and take control. If and when this happens, don’t let yourself be intimidated or overwhelmed. Instead, use them to your advantage. If you don’t agree with their points, feel free to be controversial and offer your own opinion, then open up the discussion to the group. A wise man once said: the tallest tree catches the most wind. Think about it…
- Become too informal – As in any other interview situation, there’s a certain etiquette for group interviews which should always be adhered to. It’s fine to appear comfortable and relaxed in some instances. For example, taking your coat/scarf/hand-knitted woolly mittens off is perfectly acceptable (and indeed can be a particular bugbear for some recruiters if left on).
Do not, however, use this as an excuse to leave your manners at the door.
Number one: don’t refer to your interviewers or co-interviewees as ‘mate’. Your interviewers are not your friends.
Number two: never swear. Being controversial is ok, as long as you have a well-articulated, polite and appropriate argument. Being rude, vulgar or offensive, however, is definitely not.
Number three: avoid discussing any excesses you might enjoy in your own time (obvious topics include gambling and drinking etc, but we’re sure you get the picture). Perhaps save that particular tale for another day/week/lifetime – it’s unlikely to impress
- Lose concentration – Finally, it’s essential to maintain maximum concentration at all times. Take notes, keep eye contact at an acceptable (and socially acceptable) level, smile, nod, and generally try and look enthusiastic and engaged throughout.
Avoid spending your time staring off into space, or worse, checking your phone during proceedings. The same also applies to doodling. If you can’t listen to the introductory presentation without practicing your inner Picasso, you probably won’t be invited back any time soon.
Other things not to do: Make too much eye contact, insult the other interviewees, insult the interviewers, cry.
Think there’s any we’ve missed? Share your best group interview tips with us below, or tell us on twitter @reedcouk