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December 11, 2018

Group Interview: Cattle Call or Opportunity?

job interviewFinding yourself lined up with other applicants in a group interview can make you feel . . . not so special! Know how to prepare for a group interview and turn one of the most tricky interview formats to your advantage.

There you are, crowded into a space with 10 or 20 others. Your glance moves around the room as a company representative gives a presentation and then leads a discussion. Who will make the cut and go on to the next round? Who will get the job(s)?

Group job interviews are intended to make the hiring process more efficient (for the employer, anyway). Interviewing a dozen people in one hour instead of 12 saves time. It also provides an opportunity to assess candidates’ communication and teamwork skills.

If you hate this type of interview, you’re not alone. Even the person conducting the process may feel stressed. And some human resources professionals question the validity of assessing teamwork skills in such an artificial “team” situation.

But every challenge is an opportunity. How can you use this situation to your advantage

  • Show up. Some of those invited to group interviews turn them down, so the moment you arrive you’ve already passed up some of your competitors and proven a willingness to take risks and work outside your comfort zone.
  • Psych up in advance and mentally let go of the things you can’t control – the behavior of your competitors, the reactions of the interviewers, the unexpected questions or activities you may not feel prepared for.
  • Know your key selling points – your Unique Selling Proposition – and look for opportunities to demonstrate these key points.
  • Maintain your humanity and your integrity. Greet the other candidates, set a positive tone by being friendly. Don’t let the situation make you feel small.
  • Pay attention and listen: to the interviewers’ instructions, questions and body language, and to the other candidates’ comments during discussions. Demonstrate your listening skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills, speaking up about your ideas but also asking good questions, persuading others through reason and negotiation, and encouraging discussion and teamwork.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to the others or worrying about who is “winning.” Someone else may seem to become the “star,” but unless you are a mind-reader you can’t be sure what an interviewer really thinks.
  • Remember that all the usual interviewing tips and rules apply, such as arriving 5-15 minutes early, dressing for success, and of course sending a well-written thank-you note immediately after.

Group interviews are one of the more difficult types of interview, along with panel interviews and case interviews. Use that difficulty to your advantage by being one of the few who come in well prepared and grounded in a positive attitude, ready to land that job.


This article was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated.

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