How to ace a group interview
Being interviewed for your dream job is stressful enough when it’s one-on-one. But when you’re being grilled alongside other candidates for the same gig – well, that’s even more intense.
For many types of jobs – including teamwork-heavy roles and entry-level positions – group interviews are increasingly common.
Why? Career coach Niya Allen-Vatel says there are a couple key reasons. For one thing, interviewing a group of candidates speeds up the interview process for the company. It also helps the employer gauge how well potential hires interact with others.
But since they’re still not the norm, group interviews can take a toll on the candidates involved.
“It’s definitely stressful, especially for people who are not used to that,” says Allen-Vatel.
If you’re faced with a group interview, how can you stay calm and make a good impression – without stepping on other candidates’ toes?
We asked the experts for their top tips.
Show up early
Being a bit early for any type of job interview is a good idea (so you have time to find your way and collect your thoughts). But Allen-Vatel says it’s particularly crucial for group interviews.
“If you show up early, you’re able to engage with the other interviewees and let your guard down and relax,” she says.
And since the employer is likely keeping an eye on your people skills, that engagement with your fellow job hunters is key.
Being an early bird also gives you a chance to pick the ideal spot. To stand out, candidates should sit front and centre, Allen-Vatel explains. If the interview is set up with multiple rows of chairs, you want to be in the front – and if it’s a half-circle set-up, sit in the middle.
Listen more than you talk
In traditional job interviews, you get to answer all the questions. In a group interview, you need to wait your turn – and take stock of what your competitors are saying.
“If you’re steamrolling the other candidates or interrupting, it comes off as abrasive and aggressive,” says Sarah Vermunt, founder of career coaching company Careergasm.
Allen-Vatel agrees, and warns that dominating the conversation can also come off as cocky. A better strategy is feeding off other participants – letting them finish, and acknowledging intelligent answers while adding your own insights and personal experience.
Watch your body language and demeanor
Employers want to know you’d be a pleasant person to work with, and a team player. Body language, Allen-Vatel says, is a big piece of that.
“Don’t rest back in your seat like you’re waiting for the bus or something,” she says. “Sit up, on the edge of your seat, be engaging, and make eye contact.”
Vermunt says this also means being warm and friendly to both the interviewers – and other applicants. “Often times, when you’re in a panel interview scenario, the interviews are not only looking for your answers, but how you respond to the other applicants,” she explains.
In other words, your social aptitude matters.
Stick around after the interview
Usually, once an interview wraps up, you offer a handshake and hit the road. Not so with many group interviews, Allen-Vatel says. She recommends lingering for a bit once the formal interview portion is over.
This gives you a chance to mingle briefly with the other candidates – and to help your potential future employer tidy up. Whether it’s folding up chairs or offering to gather up group activity materials, helping out post-interview can leave a positive impression.
“It shows that you don’t just do what you’re required to do,” Allen-Vatel says.
And what employer wouldn’t want that?