An increasing number of companies are now carrying out group interviews to reduce recruitment costs. As an added benefit, this process also allows hiring managers to measure the performance of potential candidates simultaneously and to make behavioural and leadership assessments which they can rank. Although this type of interview practise is carried out more frequently at junior levels, I am starting to hear that this selection style is being implemented for more senior roles.
For many this can be a nerve-racking experience.
Some key tips for a group interview:
- Non verbal communication – grooming is paramount in a group situation and an authoritative professional image will be significant in making a strong first impression and as a way to stand out from the crowd. Dress appropriately for the sector you are targeting, always erring on the side of caution and being more conservative. Unless you are interviewing in the fashion industry avoid making fashion statements. If you know you are presenting anything to camera, avoid bold patterns Make sure body language, posture and diction are all flawless. Practise all your intros even the shortest USP.
- Be punctual – for you this means early. You could be assessed by everyone from the receptionist onwards. These informal situations give you the opportunity to showcase your social skills.
- Your 30 second commercial – this should be in your DNA with skills and success stories so deeply engrained that you can highlight them fluently, even when under pressure. Sometimes you maybe asked to do a presentation to camera or even to present a fellow candidate. Listen to them attentively when they recount their own bios. I coached someone recently who learned he had a tendency to use “upspeak“ and “like” and “you know” figured at the end of every second phrase. This makes every sentence sound like a question and you appear hesitant which you clearly don’t want. It took two coaching sessions to recalibrate his speech patterns. Practise into your answer machine or record yourself on Skype if you are unsure.
- Be both a team player and a leader many believe that they have to stand out from the group and try too hard. This isn’t always necessary. It is important to be mindful of your fellow candidates without being passive, and assertive without being overbearing. Leadership isn’t about the person who talks the most or the loudest. Your individual role in the group will be assessed as well as a number of skills including your ability to handle pressure, plus giving and receiving feedback. For group interviews which span a weekend, and include team exercises, depending on the nature of the open positions, a general guideline is to come in the top percentile in all activities. This will highlight you as a good all-rounder. If there are specific requirements (technical tests for example ) you will want to excel at those.
- Don’t get too relaxed – very often group interviews span a whole day or days, which might include lunch and coffee breaks. You are being assessed all the time, so take care not to get too comfortable and over share. Your social skills are being monitored in detail. Your personal and social life or political and religious views should stay private. If you are offered alcohol don’t drink it and obviously watch your language. You absolutely don’t want to be overly friendly and pally with your interviewers. They are not your friends, even if some are near your own age. The same applies to the fellow candidates. Remember you are in competition. You can always follow-up after the interview.
- Prepare questions – always do your homework. You may also be asked for feedback on the exercises and an analysis of the roles of other candidates, as well as your own. Answer honestly, constructively and professionally. Don’t run your fellow candidates down.
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It’s very stressful to know you’re going to have a group interview, even for those who’re born to be leaders. Having to deal with knowing your life’s about to take a different course is hard enough, but seeing everyone around feel the same way you do is such a pressure! You always have to pay attention not to cross the line and to be too bossy or too shy, because you’re judged according to your attitude towards your equals. I wish I had your tips before my last group interview.