What is a group interview?
In a group interview, you one of many candidates being interviewed at the same time. One or more people on the hiring team will interview you alongside others, and may have you break up into small groups to interact with other candidates.
(This differs from a panel interview, where you’re the only candidate, but you’re interviewed by more than one person.)
Group interviews are often used for sales positions or other customer-facing roles. Generally they’re aimed at new grads, summer job seekers, and others without a lot of experience. Group interviews give hiring managers a chance to gauge if you’re a good fit for their team, whether you’d gel with the existing company culture, and how you handle stressful situations.
Above all, group interviews are about your interpersonal skills!
How to succeed in a group interview
Taking part in a group interview can be a strange experience. It’s tough to know how much to speak, and when. Here’s some advice from experts on standing out in a group interview (for the right reasons).
Don’t try to “compete” with the other candidates
In a group interview, the focus isn’t entirely on you. This can be a good thing! You shouldn’t try to make every topic or question about yourself. If another candidate mentions their 100 hours of volunteer service, don’t blurt out that you’ve done 200! Don’t try to measure your worth in comparison to someone else.
Stay engaged throughout the interview
When it’s not your turn to talk, its important to stay engaged! Really listen to the responses of your fellow candidates, and the questions they’re asked. Resist the urge to switch to a new tab or quickly check your phone. Commit fully to the interview. You can demonstrate your engagement by maintaining good body language, looking at the speaker, and nodding at appropriate times.
Build on what others have said
A good reason to stay engaged is so you can build on others’ thoughts. Try not to just repeat what others have already said — instead, use others’ responses as a jumping-off point for your own ideas. You can disagree, respectfully, and even go off-script if a new idea occurs you to thanks to something someone else said. Show that you’re tuned into what’s going on, and try your best to meaningfully contribute to the conversation.
Be a leader
Group interviews can be a good opportunity to show off your leadership skills, too. If others aren’t speaking up, take the stage yourself. Of course, don’t cut others off, or interrupt, but it’s good to show you can take initiative.
Further, if you notice another candidate is rather quiet and hasn’t spoken up much, especially in a free-for-all group chat setting (as opposed to a directed questions), you may want to consciously make space for them. A prompt like, “We haven’t heard much from you yet, X. What are your thoughts?” can go a long way toward making reserved candidates more comfortable, and show that you’re perceptive, thoughtful, and unafraid to take the lead when necessary. Going out of your way to lend a hand to another candidate will absolutely be noticed by interviewers!
Virtual interview advice
Whether or not you’re taking part in a group interview, panel interview, or a regular one-on-one, here are some time-tested tips for virtual interviews that will help you stay ahead of the pack.
Lighting and aesthetics
Just because you’re doing the interview from your room doesn’t mean you should be in your pajamas! Dress nicely, just as you would for an in-person interview.
Be sure you’re well lit, and not sitting in front of a window that will cast your face in shadow.
Test your equipment
Make sure you run a test with your computer, your microphone, and your headphones, before the interview begins. Have a plan in mind in case you run into tech trouble during the call.
By the way, if you’re using headphones, try to use earbuds, airpods, or something similar — over-the-ear headphones can be distracting for some interviewers.
Also, make sure your camera is at eye level! During the interview, you’ll want to look into the camera, rather than at the participants (and definitely avoid looking at yourself! Zoom has a handy “hide self view” feature for this). Your goal is to create as naturalistic an impression as possible.
Finally, be sure to have the phone call-in number handy in case you get disconnected. Zoom and other video conference platforms offer call-in lines so you can participate by phone if you run into internet trouble. This can be a good back-up plan if you run into issues with your connection!
Group video interviews can be a weird experience. On one hand, the focus isn’t entirely on you, which may be a relief. On the other, you’re trying to stand out among other candidates (for the right reasons!), which can be intimidating.
Just stay calm and do your best. Remember to smile, learn and use people’s names, and take notes throughout. Have a glass of water nearby, and above all, be yourself!
PS: Don’t forget to send a quick thank you email to your interviewer afterward. A follow-up shows you’re engaged — and it’s just a polite thing to do in general.
Best of luck on your group video interview.