I remember walking into my first group interview – the holiday season was about to start and I needed a job. After submitting who knows how many applications, I finally landed a group interview at a retail store.
I figured a group interview was just like any other job interview. How wrong I was.
I was interviewed along with ten other applicants, right in the middle of the store. The interview was a confusing mix of activities and questions I stumbled through awkwardly. Spoiler alert: I didn't get the job.
I recently spoke with Patrick Edmunds, a former hiring manager who held group interviews - sometimes with 50 or 60 candidates at once – for a nationally known fitness center. Here's what he said about nailing group interviews:
What are group interviews like?
"It's probably not going to be like any interview you've ever had before."
Group interviews follow a completely different format; plan for a two- to three-hour interview session with a lot of activities. "For us to see how someone performed in a group dynamic was really, really important," says Edmunds. That means it's not just about standing out from the crowd, it's about working well with your fellow applicants.
Interview activities depend on the position you are applying for, but expect them to be challenging and highly interactive. "We would challenge applicants to see outside the box and see how they responded. We looked for flexibility and response to diversity. Applicants were grouped with people they had never met before to see how sensitive they were to issues in diversity."
How you can stand out?
- Be open-minded: You are probably going to encounter something you weren't expecting, Edmunds advises candidates to be willing to try something new. "There are ways to participate that are not just proving how much you know. Don't feel like you need to answer every question. Just try something new or take a risk. For us, candidates would have to get in front of the group to act something out. Maybe you look silly but you were willing to try new things."
- Be personable: "Be willing to listen to others. Part of the test is how you work with others," says Edmunds. "[Group activities] helped us see who was a leader or follower, whether they were reserved or overpowering in a group setting."
- Be assertive (but not aggressive): Edmunds really emphasized this point. "In a group interview, it can be very easy to get lost in the crowd. In a group of 20 or 30 people, you want your interviewer to remember you. If we can't remember who you are, we can't offer you a job. But don't be aggressive. I've seen applicants who feel they need to steal the show, but that's not what we're looking for. Be assertive but also give opportunities for other people to shine.
- Be proactive: "I really appreciated when during some part of the interview, individuals took the time to introduce themselves. Not barging in on other people. But maybe someone waited around afterwards or came a little early to introduce themselves," says Edmunds.
If I had used Edmunds' advice, I have a feeling I would have had a much better chance in my group interview - but it's not too late for you. Follow these tips and you can nail your group interview. Good luck!